Lincoln Park Conservatory in Chicago

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The Lincoln Park Conservatory (1.2 ha / 3 acres) is a conservatory and botanical garden in Lincoln Park in Chicago, Illinois. The conservatory is situated at 2391 North Stockton Drive just south of Fullerton Avenue, west of Lake Shore Drive, and part of the Lincoln Park, Chicago community area. Positioned near the shore of Lake Michigan, it is just north of the Lincoln Park Zoo. The Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool and the North Pond Nature Sanctuary are further to the north along Stockton Drive. Along with the Garfield Park Conservatory on Chicago's west side, it provides significant horticultural collections, educational programs and community out-reach efforts.

Conservatories were originally benevolent establishments attached to hospitals or other charitable or religious institutions. They provided plants and organisms for medicinal use and research. Nineteenth-century city dwellers, concerned with the ill effects of growing industrialization, became fascinated with horticulture. In Chicago, three park commissions were organized in 1869 and, by 1895, Chicago had five conservatories


The Lincoln Park Commission established a greenhouse at the Lincoln Park site in 1877 and planted an adjacent formal garden in 1880. With the Industrial Revolution, architects in both the U.S. and Europe began to use glass and iron in construction. Nationally renowned architect Joseph Lyman Silsbee designed the Victorian conservatory in collaboration with another Chicago architect, M.E. Bell. They created a glass building that would support "a luxuriant tropical growth, blending the whole into a natural grouping of Nature's loveliest forms." Silsbee gave the conservatory an exotic form by creating a series of trusses in the shape of ogee arches.


Today's conservatory was built in stages from 1890-1895. It consists of a vestibule, four display halls and fifteen propagating and growing houses. The vestibule and Palm House were built and opened to the public in 1892 and contain giant palms and rubber trees, including a 15 m (50 ft) fiddle-leaf rubber tree planted in 1891. In the Palm House, one can also find Garden Figure, a sculpture by Frederick Hibbard. The Fern Room or Fernery, approximately five and a half feet below grade, was opened in 1895. It contains plants of the forest floor, primarily a vast collection of ferns. The Tropical Room was originally called the stove house. Opened in 1895, it contained an assortment of tropical plants suspended from bark-covered walls. It is now called the Orchid Room and has a collection of approximately 25,000 natural species. The Display House is used for seasonal flower exhibits.

Surrounding gardens

Throughout the long history of the conservatory, there has been an important relationship between the structure and its surrounding landscape. Twelve beds of colorful summer annuals and tropical plants surround Storks at Play, also known as the Eli Bates Fountain, by sculptors Augustus St. Gaudens and Frederick MacMonnies. This large formal garden is located just south of the Lincoln Park Conservatory. Called the Great Garden, it is one of the oldest public gardens in Chicago and pre-dates the present conservatory by 20 years. The Lincoln Park Commission installed the fountain in 1887. The Schiller Monument, at the south end of the garden, is a copy of an original monument to Friedrich Schiller, the famous German poet. It was cast in Stuttgart, Germany and erected in 1886 by a group known as Chicago Citizens of German Descent. The original work is regarded as the masterpiece of its sculptor, Ernst Bildhauer Rau. To the west, the William Shakespeare Monument by William Ordway Partridge sits in an old English garden. Installed in 1894, it was purchased through a bequest from Samuel Johnston, a Chicago real estate and railway tycoon.


The Lincoln Park Conservatory underwent major alterations in 1925. The original terrace and the front vestibule were removed and the entryway's original gabled roof was replaced with the bell-shaped roof that exists today. A new and expanded lobby space was constructed. The front of the conservatory was altered and expanded again in 1954 to provide public washrooms and create a solid entryway vestibule.

See also

  • Garfield Park Conservatory
  • List of botanical gardens in the United States
  • List of museums and cultural institutions in Chicago

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