The 1890s witnessed an era of widespread cultural growth for Chicago. At the time of the Academy's museum dedication, the city was basking in the glow of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. The tremendously successful fair brought three-quarters of a million visitors to the vibrant city, eager to showcase its impressive rebuilding following the Great Fire. In addition to the Columbian Exposition and the Academy of Sciences’ impressive new edifice, the Chicago Horticultural Society was formed during this decade. Its founding group of civic leaders aimed to make the city’s somewhat aspirational motto “Urbs in Horto,” or “City in a Garden,” a reality.
The Society embraced the City Beautiful movement popularized by the Exposition’s spectacular White City with its monumental architecture built around serene lagoons, canals, and gardens. The movement aspired to create a better quality of life for residents through enlightened urban planning, an endeavor that would transcend socioeconomic lines. The City Beautiful Movement favored Beaux-Arts and Neoclassical architecture, a style exemplified by the Chicago Academy of Sciences' building situated on the edge of Lincoln Park, just down the road from our bur oak tree.
Chicago and the surrounding area approached the end of the 19th century with not only a host of problems associated with the extraordinary pace of its urbanization, but also with an emerging network of public greenspaces and civic societies interested in environmental concerns.
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