Chicago, IL – Once a forgotten treasure that had been ignored for years, the Garfield Park Conservatory is now a thriving destination on Chicago’s West Side. So, how does a deteriorated, unvisited Conservatory turn itself into a catalyst for community improvement?
In 1994, the Conservatory in Chicago was reeling from years of neglect, not to mention a devastating cold spell. Today the conservatory has been rebuilt, and a unique partner, the non-profit Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance, has been formed to work with the conservatory staff and the surrounding community.
As a result of these efforts, the conservatory has not only become an important center within the surrounding Garfield Park community, but a national example of the benefits parks bring to neighborhoods. In recent weeks, the conservatory has been featured in the Wall Street Journal and in the national section of the Sunday New York Times.
“It’s a sort of phenomenon that it’s happening. People are finding the West Side again”
The Alliance is a partnership of organizations which includes the Chicago Park District, Friends of the Parks, and area schools, museums, conservation organizations and community groups. Since its formation, the Alliance has revitalized the Conservatory through new programs, visitor services, marketing and fundraising.
The Conservatory, created in 1905 to be “the largest publicly owned conservatory under one roof in the world,” was in a state of disrepair following a period of neglect spanning the late 80s and early 90s. Thanks in large part to the efforts of the Alliance, the conservatory is now one of the biggest draws in Chicago’s West Side.
According to the Chicago Park District’s Drew Becher, “It’s a sort of phenomenon that it’s happening. People are finding the West Side again. It’s actually the most beautiful side of the city that we have.”
As part of the Alliance’s strategy to entice visitors with more than just plant life, the Conservatory is currently hosting an installation by the sculptor Dale Chihuly.