Exploring the hidden gardens of Chicago

Illinois

CHICAGO, Ill. — It’s the slogan on Chicago’s official seal: “Urbs in Horto.” It’s Latin for “City in a Garden.” 

Multitudes of people have enjoyed the colorful gardens of Grant Park and Navy Pier. 

But there’s so much more in the hidden gardens of Chicago. 

A hundred yards from the mechanized roar of DuSable Lake Shore Drive is a soothing dose of nature in Lincoln Park.

Karen Szyjka is with the Chicago Park District.

“You can hear the sound of water,” she said.  “The perimeter’s protected, you don’t hear much in the way of sounds of the city.”

Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool –  125 W Fullerton Pkwy

Visitors can soak up the serenity of this national historic landmark tucked away off Fullerton Parkway.  The marvelous Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool was completed in 1938.

Caldwell’s masterpiece was built in part with his own money.  

“He cashed in his life insurance policy to buy the truck and drive to Wisconsin and to get all the plant material,” Szyjka said. “Alfred Caldwell really wanted to bring the prairie into the city.”

It’s a garden surrounded by history. 

1836 Widow Clarke House – 1827 S Indiana Ave

The 1836 Widow Clarke House at 18th Street and  Indiana Avenue keeps watch over the Chicago Women’s Park & Garden.

The “Helping Hands” Memorial there honors Jane Addams, the pioneering social reformer. 

“It’s got a nice little meandering through there,” Szyjka said. “There’s little alcoves and kids love it.”

South Merrill Community Garden – 7030 S Merrill Ave

Nestled between the apartment buildings of Chicago’s South Shore, visitors can discover a piece of earthly paradise at the South Merrill Community Garden. 

Dianne Hodges, 72, is a horticultural visionary and welcomes visitors to the sanctuary she’s created.   

“Anybody wants to come and leave their footprint in the garden they’re more than welcome to come,” she said. And be a part of that particular project.”

There are art projects and gardening to draw in surrounding families. 

The rich soil and vibrant colors of this urban refuge at 70th Street and South Merrill Avenue provides providing what Hodges says is a therapeutic encounter with nature.

“It’s color therapy.  We know that art is healing,” she said. “This is scientifically proven.  So this is why when people work in their gardens they feel so wonderful.”

Graceland Cemetery – 4001 N Clark St, Chicago

It might surprise you to find a cemetery in a garden not far from Wrigley Field.  

Chicago’s dead rest eternally at the Graceland Cemetery, a lush blanket of green enveloping the gravesites of past luminaries from George Pullman to department store heir Marshall Field Jr and architect Daniel Burnham.  

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