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Humboldt Park's Deteriorating Garden To Get Millennium Park Treatment

By Mina Bloom | May 2, 2017 1:29pm
 Jens Jensen Formal Garden, completed in 1908, will soon see new life. Pictured is the garden in 1908 (left) and the garden today (right).
Jens Jensen Formal Garden, completed in 1908, will soon see new life. Pictured is the garden in 1908 (left) and the garden today (right).
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Jen Jens Formal Garden Group/Facebook

HUMBOLDT PARK — A prominent Dutch designer behind the award-winning Lurie Garden in Millennium Park has been tapped to revitalize the Jens Jensen Formal Garden in Humboldt Park, which has greatly deteriorated since it was built in 1908.

The Chicago Park District, in partnership with the Chicago Park Foundation and the Garden Conservancy, selected internationally known Piet Oudolf to lead the restoration project, which has been in the works for more than a year. Plans include repairing the crumbling infrastructure and revitalizing the design features in keeping with Jensen's famous Prairie style.

Oudolf presented his ideas to more than 25 residents and community leaders at a meeting in early April. At the meeting, Oudolf unveiled a "durable" design that would accommodate Chicago's seasons and doesn't require pesticides. The designer has enlisted the Hitchcock Design Group to coordinate the design.

“We will create a community of plants that work well together and look beautiful throughout the seasons," Oudolf said in a prepared statement.

Jensen (1860-1951) is regarded as one of the country's most significant landscape designers. The circular garden he created in 1908 featured semi-circular beds of roses and other perennials, as well as an upper terrace with wooden and concrete pergolas, according to the Jensen Formal Garden Restoration Project website.

"He called it a 'community garden' explaining that it was created for 'those who have no other gardens except their window sills,'" the website reads.

Over the years, the garden has deteriorated: the concrete walls and pergolas are cracking, the wood is rotting, some flowers beds have been sodded over and very few flowers remain, according to the website.

The park groups are confident Oudolf will restore the garden to its former glory. 


The award-winning Lurie Garden in Millennium Park, which was designed by Oudolf.

“We are thrilled to have such a renowned garden designer lend his creative talents and thoughtful insight to our revitalization of the garden, and transform Jens Jensen’s world-class formal garden into an inviting four-season gathering space accessible to patrons year-round,” Chicago Park District General Supt. and CEO Michael P. Kelly said in a prepared statement.

The project will cost a total of $350,000, which the Chicago Parks Foundation is planning to raise through a combination of public and private donations, according to Willa Lang, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Parks Foundation, the charitable arm of the Park District. The Garden Conservancy has already donated $20,000.

The group is also raising money through an online fundraising campaign, which had raised $1,630 as of Tuesday afternoon.