The Garfield Park Conservatory turned 100 years old last Sunday, April 13.
The conservatory is one of the largest and most impressive conservatories in the United States. Often referred to as “landscape art under glass,” the Garfield Park Conservatory occupies about 185 acres inside its massive glass structure and its sprawling outdoor grounds.
The Sunday celebration included hundreds of visitors, local officials and city leaders. The theme was “Blues and Greens,” recognizing the city’s blues music and horticulture history.
Festivities included activities for children and families, storytellers depicting historic events on the West Side, and the release of the book Inspired by Nature: The Garfield Park Conservatory and the West Side, which recalls the history of Garfield Park, the conservatory and the West Side.
Visitors were treated to hot dogs, pop and popcorn, and were serenaded by a live jazz band.
Eunita Rushing, president of Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance, a non-profit group, and Mary Eysenbach, director of conservatories for the Chicago Park District, did the honors of cutting the cake.
“We are so proud to have been on the West Side for 100 years,” said Eysenbach. “We think the conservatory is a real gem here in the city of Chicago and we intend the next 100 years to make it an even better community place.
Conservatory board member Douglas R. Cannon, along with his wife, Christa, attended Sunday’s celebration.
“Well, this is the initial event; we’re planning an entire year of celebrations,” Cannon said. “It only happens once every 100 years so we might as well do it right. Seeing everybody enjoying themselves today is really quite a thrill.”
The conservatory, located in Garfield Park, 300 N. Central Park, was built in 1908. Its design was different than other conservatories at the time, which took on a Victorian look, according to the book, Inspired by Nature. The park and conservatory was designed by famed architect Jens Jensen, who incorporating realistic landscapes for its design.
The conservatory has housed many exhibits in its 100 years, more recently its “Sugar from the Sun” exhibit, currently on display, which showcases how plants create their own food and the process of photosynthesis.
Additionally, thousands of plants are grown there regularly each year, and specimens from around the world housed there include some plants more than 300 years old.
Last Thursday, the conservatory hosted a special West Side celebration marking its 100th birthday.