Wild in the City: Chicagoland's Urban Ecology

Chicago Botanic Garden

The Chicago Botanic Garden land, known originally as the Skokie Marsh, had been dug, trenched, and expanded into the Skokie Lagoon System by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) during the Great Depression. The expansion was the largest CCC project in the United States.

With ground-breaking in 1965, the Society officially opened its garden to the public in 1972. In an example of a successful public-private partnership with the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, the Society operates on 385 acres of land owned by the County. After years of hosting flower shows downtown and never having a dedicated space of its own, this major undertaking had finally come to fruition. On such a huge tract of land, the botanical opportunities seemed endless.

The Chicago Horticultural Society continued to host flower shows, which had been held at McCormick place since 1971 with collaborators such as the Garden Club of Illinois and the Garden Club of America. The final show was held in 1979 where the GCA displayed an exhibition called the Miracle of Water, which highlighted not only designs for water gardens, but presented an exhibition on the importance of water quality.

On August 19, 1979, Chicago Tribune garden writer Art Kozelka wrote this headline:

The Biggest Garden Show of Them All - From the Chicago Horticultural Society folks who for so many years gave you the giant indoor Flower and Garden Show, comes an invitation to visit the outdoor flower show - 300 acres of gardens, shrubbery, trees, lawns, ponds not to mention greenhouses and exhibits.

In 1980, the site in Glencoe was officially renamed the Chicago Botanic Garden. The Society finally had a home for its own flower shows and annual Orchid Show; as well as its collaborations, educational lectures and classes, books and library, artwork, plant information department, and scientific research. It is now a beautiful space for all of those who love plants and learning about plants to come together, research, learn, and enjoy.

Use the cards at the bottom of each page to explore various parts of the "Seeds of Change" chapter. There will always be a card to take you back to the chapter introduction or you can go back to the Wild in the City overview.


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