Found just a stone?s throw away from the Lincoln Park Zoo, the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool Gardens has been a flourishing refuge for both people and wildlife since its inception.
The Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool Gardens was initially landscaped back in 1889 and was intended as a venue where to grow tropical water lilies. It was re-laid out by landscape architect Alfred Caldwell in the 1930s utilizing the Prairie Style defined by its popular champions such as Frank Lloyd Wright and Caldwell?s mentor Jens Jensen.
Caldwell?s new landscape for the Lily Pool featured plants that are endemic to the Midwest. He also added a few other elements such as a pavilion, stone outcroppings, a flowing waterfall and many other features. All these are placed around the Lily Pool to conjure an image as if a creek is running across a Midwestern prairie. Caldwell envisioned that this would promote among Chicagoans an appreciation for the splendor of the natural topography and the Lily Pool did not disappoint him. The Lily Pool Gardens remains as one of Caldwell?s most memorable and remarkable projects.
Caldwell called the Lily Pool Gardens ?a hidden garden for the people of Megalopolis? in 1942. He wanted to underscore that it is made as a sanctuary for Chicago residents who want to break away from the stress and the noise of the city.
Unfortunately, not long before Caldwell said these famous words, the Lily Pool Gardens started to become very dense and unkempt. For a short period of time, the management of Lincoln Park assumed the maintenance of the Lily Pool Gardens which was converted into a bird sanctuary known as The Rookery. However, it brought more harm to the gardens because the birds destroyed the plants as well as the people who could never care less about nature. Insignificant attempts were done in the 1960s to restore the Lily Pool Gardens but, by the last ten years of the 20th century, it was in a dying state.
Fortunately, in 1997, the group called Friends of Lincoln Park embarked on a radical move to rehabilitate the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool Gardens. They tapped into the expertise of the firm Wolff Clements and Associates to revive its beautiful landscape. The firm opted to bring back the Lily Pool Gardens into its original design to honor the most famous work of Alfred Caldwell.
After careful planning, the restoration project commenced in 2001 starting with the substitution of non-indigenous trees and shrubs with species endemic to the Midwest that are more bird-friendly. Pathways especially made for the handicaps were also added while damaged stone walkways were restored. A circular bench called the council ring, the pavilion and the gate to the gardens were also refurbished.
The gates of the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool Gardens were opened to the public in 2003 and instantly claimed its reputation as a refuge for jaded urbanites who want to break away from the stresses of everyday city living, as well as a premier spot for bird watching among Chicagoans.
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