Visit Lincoln Park Conservatory
Where: Lincoln Park Conservatory, 2391 N. Stockton Drive, 312-742-7736.
About Lincoln Park Conservatory
The Lincoln Park Conservatory is the smaller of the Chicago conservatories but it’s still a fabulous place to walk through any day but especially on a rainy or cold day. Open Every day 9AM-5PM (always call before heading over). The pictures below speak for themselves. If you want to dine in the area consider Mon Ami Gabi across the street ( a glass of wine and a bowl of french onion soup will run around $20) or RJ Grunts for real cheap eats.
Take a free tour of the Conservatory & Gardens
Re-discover this Victorian Era glass house with its soaring Palm House, exotic Orchid House, Seasonal Show House and prehistoric Fern Room on a tour with experienced docents. Learn about the conservatory’s vast collection of trees and plants from around the world. Tour lengths of your choice.
Drop-in tours are available to the public without reservations during normal docent hours: Fridays: 1 – 4 pm and Saturdays & Sundays: 10 am – 4 pm.
Private group tours are available to schools, clubs, tourist groups, senior centers, and others by reservation with at least seven days notice. Tours are available seven days a week between 9 am– 5 pm. Tours are available in English, Spanish, French, German, Korean, and Chinese. Please contact Rebecca Conant for more information.
Chicago’s other conservatories: Garfield Park Conservatory and the Oak Park Conservatory.
Other guides and tours:
About Lincoln Park Conservatory
The Lincoln Park Commission constructed the Lincoln Park Conservatory in phases between 1890 and 1895, replacing a small greenhouse that dated from the 1870s. Nationally renowned architect Joseph Lyman Silsbee designed the Conservatory in collaboration with architect Mifflin E. Bell.
Lincoln Park has a second example of the work of each architect. Silsbee designed the Carlson Cottage, a former ladies comfort station southeast of Café Brauer near the Lincoln Park Zoo, and Bell designed the Rustic Pavilion, located west of the North Pond, at Lakeview Ave. and St. James Place near Stockton Drive.
During the early nineteenth century developments in iron and glass building technology led to the construction of conservatories in cities throughout Europe and the United States. Later in the century, as people were increasingly concerned about the ill effects of industrialization, they became fascinated with nature and interested in collecting and classifying plants.
Large conservatories with display and exhibit rooms gained popularity, and Lincoln Park’s small greenhouse no longer seemed sufficient. Architects Silsbee and Bell were commissioned to design a much more substantial building.
Rendered in an exotic style, the new structure included palm, fernery, orchid, and show houses. A “paradise under glass,” the Conservatory supported “a luxuriant tropical growth, blending the whole into a natural grouping of Nature’s loveliest forms.” Historically, aquatic plants propagated in tanks in the Conservatory were planted outside, in artificially-heated lily ponds.
The exotic plants were so popular that in 1897 the Egyptian government requested seeds from Lincoln Park’s water lilies. The rocky-edged ponds once meandered along what is now the fence line of the Lincoln Park Zoo.
About the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool
“Step through the Prairie-style Fullerton gate and enter a hidden garden of unmatched beauty. Only bird songs and the sound of a gentle waterfall break the restful silence. Follow the stone walk encircling the lily pool and discover a pavilion, council ring, and diverse native plantings. This is the vision of landscape architect Alfred Caldwell: a hidden garden for the people of Chicago designed to resemble a river meandering through a great Midwestern prairie.”
Originally opened in 1936 the site of the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool was originally part of a Victorian garden built in 1889 that displayed tropical lilies and other aquatic plants. Caldwell redesigned the pool to resemble a Midwestern landscape but with Japanese and Prairie School elements including stone work, a wooden pavilion and native plants.
By the 1950s, the Lily Pool had deteriorated and was loaned to the Lincoln Park Zoo as an avian exhibit known as “The Rookery.” The pool continued to deteriorate and the zoo decided not to use it anymore. The Chicago Park District then closed the site to the public for many years. Invasive non-native trees, shrubs and weeds overtook the site, the stonework broke, hillsides eroded, wildflowers died, and the pool filled with debris. This resulted in a famous video of Mr. Caldwell touring the site and screaming about how the Park District had wrecked his pool. I couldn’t find it online. If anyone finds it please send the link.
Anyway the Lincoln Park Conservancy came to the Pools rescue in 1997. The conservancy raised $1.1 million in private funding for the project and the Chicago Park District allocated $1.3 million from its capital budget. The Pool was restored to it’s former grandeur and reopened in 2002. Unfortunately Mr. Caldwell died in 1998.