Sunday, August 4, 2013

Homes And Gardens With Historical Roots In Chicago

While visiting Chicago this past May

I was searching for gardens to visit and located the small but pretty Women's Park and Gardens on the near South side of downtown. This park is home to the oldest house in the city, the Clarke House Museum.  It was built in 1836 but it was moved to this location in 1977.

There is a simple yet elegant copper fountain in front of the home.

There's a playhouse-sized replica of the Clarke home for children,

room for a little soccer,

or a quiet stroll.

The rhubarb

and chives were ready for harvest in the community garden plot, which is also on this site.

The garden is intended to be dedicated to notable women in the city's history,
so there is also space for reflection.

This display of hand sculptures

is a monument dedicated to Jane Addams (1860 to 1935), 
who influenced social philosophy and provided assistance to immigrants in Chicago with Hull House, the first settlement house in the United States.

 I was thrilled to admire the Eastern Redbud,

the azaleas, ornamental shrubs

and trees that were laden with blooms.

I can imagine how beautiful autumn must be in this garden when trees here turn gorgeous shades of yellow, orange and red. Spring and autumn are Chicago's strong suits when it comes to the four seasons, and fall color is something I truly miss as a resident in San Diego.

 The Women's Park is situated on a beautiful tree-lined street 

named Prairie, aptly named for this Midwestern historical landmark district. 

There are lovely red brick homes with black wrought iron gates and small front yard gardens. And, as I learned while I was visiting, at one time the wealthiest Chicagoans lived on Prairie street in the 1870's and built their homes here. 

This included the likes of Marshall Field, of department store fame on State Street, Phillip Armour of the meatpacking industry and George Pullman, who designed luxury railroad sleeper and dining cars. Some of these houses still remain such as this French chateau-esque styled home above,

 although currently it is the home of the United States Soccer Federation.

Meanwhile, on the other side of town, the John Cuneo mansion and garden was completed in 1916 in Lake County. It is approximately 40 miles north of downtown and, essentially, this was the countryside at that time.  Interestingly enough, the wealthy Armours and others were also in Lake County by the early 1900's.

Back in the day the Cuneo mansion was considered high tech: an Italianate villa with electricity, an elevator and retractable ceilings (what?) for that instant European courtyard effect, and even a chapel for Sunday morning mass.  But the Cuneos also enjoyed entertaining and having parties here.

Hmm, if these walls could talk...

The garden, originally designed by the formidable landscape architect Jens Jensen (although modified since then) is spacious and grassy. 

A prairie garden was originally included here, but this garden feels European with an emphasis on lots of statuary,

including an allee of statuary.

And, if statuary could talk, I wonder what she could tell us...

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