Alfred Caldwell: A Secret Garden in Lincoln Park

13 Sep

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I was walking to the lake on this fine September afternoon for some ‘homework on the beach’ (which turned into a 4 hour walk around the city!) when I happened upon a set of wooden doors that opened into some sort of greenery. Intrigued, I wandered in. Inside, I was pleasantly surprised to find- to steal a term from a set of Lincoln Park Zoo advertisements- an urban oasis! The central feature of this naturalized garden was medium sized lily pond lined with rectangular boulders and circled by all different, short, winding paths. Following one, I came to a round bench made of the same rectangular stone. On the far side of the lily pond was a wooden prairie style structure that united the pond’s sense of horizon with the vertical plants and grasses. I was simply delighted.

I had unknowingly stumbled upon Alfred Caldwell’s Lily Pool, and if you are ever on Fullerton right near the Lincoln Park Zoo, I would highly suggest a little peek in. It’s always surprising how even in the middle of the city, people make an effort to bring back some sense of the natural world.

Here’s what the Chicago Park District has to say about the pool:

Alfred Caldwell (1903-1998)

“Originally built in 1889 for raising tropical water lilies, the Lily Pool was redesigned in the prairie style during the 1930’s by    Alfred Caldwell. The landscape design of the Caldwell Lily Pool is a tribute to the natural ecology of the Midwest. It was originally designed to mimic a river formed by a melting glacier’s flow of water cutting through limestone. The stonework and paths have a natural look that conveys the interpretation that melted glacial water flows are cutting through moraines, creating dramatic limestone bluffs. A waterfall near the north end of the lily pool represents the source of this glacial river”

It’s not the most stunning or elaborate of parks- but it was a nice find on a beautiful day.


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