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Garfield Park

Jensen drawings of the Dvorak Park.
© Copyrights reserved to Chicago Park District.

The centerpiece of the West Chicago Park System, Garfield Park was first known as Central Park. Architect and engineer architect and engineer William Le Baron Jenney created an original plan for the 185-acre park in 1871. Due to funding limitations; however, the site evolved slowly and in stages. When the first small portion along the eastern side of the park officially opened to the public in 1874, a newspaper article lauded “the handsome acres reclaimed from the desolate prairie.” By the time Jens Jensen began managing the entire West Park System in late 1905, the park included an exotic Victorian bandstand, a double ring bicycle and racing track, rustic shelters, and a small conservatory. Jensen replaced the racetrack with a naturalistic meadow edged with native plantings, providing the first public golf course on Chicago’s West Side. Nearby, he created a formal garden that combined exotic and regional flowers. Jensen demolished the park’s small deteriorated glass house along with two others in Humboldt and Douglas Parks. He replaced them with one large centralized conservatory in Garfield Park that he designed in conjunction with a New York engineering firm, Hitchings & Company. Considered revolutionary when it opened to the public in 1908, the new Garfield Park Conservatory resembled the form of Midwestern haystack. Inside, its rooms were symbolic of prehistoric Illinois.

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