GARFIELD PARK – $17,000 isn’t a bad return on a tropical plant sale.
But in the case of the Garfield Park Conservatory, that amount only scratches the surface in what’s needed to clean up the storm-damaged, West Side botanic garden. The Oct. 22 plant sale to raise money for the conservatory, 300 N. Central Park, was a nice haul but is just a fraction of the estimated $2 million needed to simply clean up the shattered glass leftover from a June 30 hailstorm. The conservatory decided to sell some of its tropical plants to help pay for the repairs, but also to save the rare specimens. Despite large repair costs, the plant sale was still considered a success. Finding shelter for the tropical plants before winter was the number one priority, explained Mary Eysenbach, director of conservatories for the Chicago Park District.
“Every single plant was gone,” she said, following the Saturday sale from Oct. 22.
Although 60 percent of the conservatory was damaged in the hailstorm, the undamaged rooms remain open, and some of the closed spaces will reopen soon.
“The plan is to have the rooms open during reconstruction,” Eysenbach said. “With the installation of winterization, it will help us reopen rooms that were previously inaccessible to the public.”
Still, some unique and endangered plants were not put up for sale but instead were moved to the Lincoln Park Conservatory. According to Eysenbach, the transition went smoothly.
“We’re two conservatories but one team, so we work together all the time,” she said.
Despite the Garfield Park Conservatory’s damage, Eyesenbach maintained she doesn’t expect the Lincoln Park Conservatory to be overrun with visitors during the busy winter season.
“They are two very different audiences,” she said. “Despite the fact that they are both Chicago landmarks, they also serve their neighborhoods. Our typical visitors at Lincoln Park are people who live near it or are visiting the zoo.”
Now that all tropical plants have been housed for winter, the plan is to move forward as soon as possible with Garfield Park’s Conservatory’s reconstruction, said Park District officials. A timeline, though, hasn’t been set.
“Our next step is to draw up design plans to rebuild the facility and then go out to bid for a contractor that will be doing the rebuilding,” said Zvezdana Kubat, spokesperson for the Chicago Park District.