Horticultural Society of ChicagoIn 1890, civic leaders believing in the restorative powers of nature and horticulture, including William B. Ogden, Chicago’s first mayor, and John H. Kinzie, the son of one of Chicago’s first European settlers, came together at the Sherman Hotel and formed the Chicago Horticultural Society. Other prominent local citizens, such as the physician and nurseryman John A. Kennicott and library founder Walter L. Newberry, also joined in the formative years. These early founders met to trade tips on growing plants on the prairie and to exhibit fruits and flowers. The exhibition of fruits and flowers through flower shows became a primary method by which the Society worked to accomplish its goals of increasing a love of horticulture among the public.
Up until then, garden clubs and regional garden centers hosted flower shows open to Chicago’s public, but the most prominent flower show was held by the Chicago Florists’ Club. The Club had 125 members, and it attracted the attention of national horticultural groups like the American Association of Nurserymen, Florists and Seedsmen, and the Society of American Florists, which eventually held its annual conventions in Chicago. The Chicago Florists’ Club established a tradition of inviting socially prominent Chicago women to judge the flower arrangements.
As the Chicago Horticultural Society was forming, preparations were being made throughout the city for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, and the fledgling Horticultural Society wanted to make its mark. The Society, the Florists’ Club, and the Chicago parks joined together to produce the 1892 World’s Flower Show, which was held in Chicago at the Second Regiment Armory on Michigan Avenue in anticipation of the Exposition. For the Fair itself, Chicago architect William Le Baron Jenny designed an impressive building called Horticultural Hall to house horticultural exhibitions and displays that would make anyone visiting enthusiastic about planting the latest horticultural favorites. While this building was slated to open in time for the November 1893 Chrysanthemum Show at the close of the Fair, this plan never came to fruition and at the last possible moment Horticultural Hall was disassembled and the Society had to find another location in which to hold its exhibition. Fortunately, Harlow Higinbothom, president of the World’s Columbian Exposition, and Charles L. Hutchinson, president of the Art Institute, were business associates and charter members of the Horticultural Society, and it was Hutchinson who graciously provided exhibition space in the newly built Art Institute of Chicago for the 1893 Chrysanthemum Show. This began a long-standing association between the Art Institute of Chicago and the Chicago Horticultural Society.
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