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Garfield Park Conservatory, located in Garfield Park in Chicago, is one of the largest greenhouse conservatories in the United States. Often referred to as "landscape art under glass", the Garfield Park Conservatory occupies approximately 4.5 acres (18,000 m2) inside and out and contains a number of permanent plant exhibits incorporating specimens from around the world, including some cycads that are over 200 years old.

Garfield Park Conservatory
Garfield Park Conservatory, aerial view.jpg
Established1880s, present structure 1908
Location300 N. Central Park Avenue
Chicago, Illinois, United States
DirectorMary Eysenbach
WebsiteGarfield Park Conservatory

Along with the Lincoln Park Conservatory on Chicago's north side, the Garfield Park Conservatory provides significant horticultural collections, educational programs and community outreach efforts.[1]


Conservatory historyEdit

The first conservatory in Garfield Park

In the late 19th century, each of the three large West Side parks had its own small conservatory and propagation greenhouses. After 20 years of use, these conservatories had fallen into a state of disrepair and had become obsolete.

The 'new' conservatory, completed in 1907

In 1905, Chicago's West Park Commission's general superintendent and chief landscape architect, Jens Jensen, demolished the three smaller greenhouses in Humboldt, Douglas, and Garfield parks to create what was intended as "the largest publicly owned conservatory under one roof in the world" in Garfield Park. Many of the original plantings came from the three smaller Westside conservatories.

Constructed between 1906 and 1907, the Garfield Park Conservatory was designed by Jensen in collaboration with Prairie School architects Schmidt, Garden and Martin and the New York engineering firm of Hitchings and Company. It represents a unique collaboration of architects, engineers, landscape architects, sculptors, and artisans.

Jensen conceived the conservatory as a series of naturalistic landscapes under glass, a revolutionary idea at the time. The simple yet strong shape of the structure, which is meant to emulate the haystacks of the Midwest, complements the collection of plants and foliage that it houses.

View of the Palm Room

Today, the conservatory still follows the original tenets of Jensen. One of the most popular rooms is the first presented to visitors, the Palm Room. In it are over 7 dozen varieties of palm trees of the over 2,700 varieties known to exist today. Of particular importance is the double coconut palm, first grown by employees of the conservatory in 1959. The double coconut palm is found only off the coast of South Africa in its native environment and produces what is believed to be the largest seed of any plant in the world, weighing up to 50 lb (23 kg). The double coconut palm at the conservatory died of currently unknown causes in February 2012.[2] Because of the species' rarity in the wild, and the challenges of cultivation, it is not expected to be replaced.

After many decades of neglect, the conservatory underwent a multimillion-dollar restoration in 1994.[3] The non-profit Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance formed to help maintain the structure and provide programs and services for visitors.[4]

In a hailstorm on the night of June 30, 2011, the conservatory suffered catastrophic damage to glass in showrooms as well as production houses where plants are grown or stored. Five recently renovated showrooms contained laminated glass and therefore sustained less damage.[5] Some areas reopened to the public July 3.[6] The Fern Room reopened December 1, 2011,[7] and the remaining areas opened January 24, 2012.[8] In 2012, the conservatory won the National Medal for Museum and Library Services.[9]

In celebration of the 2018 Illinois Bicentennial, Garfield Park Conservatory was selected as one of the Illinois 200 Great Places [10] by the American Institute of Architects Illinois component (AIA Illinois).


Other picturesEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Paradise Under Glass: Chicago's Historic Conservatories," Annual Conference of the Alliance for Historic Landscape Preservation, 1999
  2. ^ "Garfield Park Conservatory Loses Rare Double Coconut Palm Tree". WBBM-TV News. 2012-02-15. Retrieved 2015-01-12.
  3. ^ "Garfield Park Conservatory". Chicago Park District. Retrieved 2015-01-12.
  4. ^ "About Us". Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance. Archived from the original on 2011-08-09. Retrieved 2011-04-18. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  5. ^ Power, Meghan (2011-07-01). "Garfield Park Conservatory seeks recovery aid after storm damages windows". WBEZ News. Archived from the original on 2011-07-03. Retrieved 2011-07-04. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  6. ^ "Parts of Garfield Park Conservatory reopen after hail damage". Chicago Tribune. 2011-07-03. Retrieved 2015-01-12.
  7. ^ "Garfield Park Conservatory's Fern Room Reopens to Public" (Press release). Chicago Park District. 2012-12-01. Retrieved 2015-01-12.
  8. ^ "Garfield Park Conservatory Reopens All Rooms Damaged By Hail". The Huffington Post. 2012-01-24. Retrieved 2015-01-12.
  9. ^ "Chicago's Garfield Park Conservatory honored". Retrieved 7 December 2017.
  10. ^ Waldinger, Mike (January 30, 2018). "The proud history of architecture in Illinois". Springfield Business Journal. Retrieved 30 January 2018.

External linksEdit