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Chicago Parks in Vintage Postcards

Chicago's motto "Urbs in Horto" translates to "City in a Garden" and there is no best example of this motto than the our collection of public parks. While our collection of parks today is nice, it was once impressive. As you'll see from these Chicago parks in vintage postcards depicting Washington Park, Garfield Park, and Lincoln Park Conservatory.

Washington Park Chicago Conservatory and Flowerbeds

This vintage postcard reads: "Washington Park, Chicago, Conservatory and Flowerbeds. Oldest South Side park, area 371 acres."

Washington Park Lagoon Chicago

This vintage postcard reads: "Washington park, Lagoon, Chicago."

Boat House Washington Park Chicago

This vintage postcard reads: "Boat House, Washington Park, Chicago."

Lincoln Park Conservatory

This vintage postcard reads: "Lincoln Park Conservatory."

Lincoln Park Conservatory Chicago

This vintage postcard reads: "Lincoln Park Conservatory, Chicago ILL" I believe this postcard and the postcard above depict the same greenhouse in the conservatory, but from slightly different angles.

Lincoln Park Conservatory Chicago

This vintage postcard reads: "Lincoln Park, Conservatory, Chicago." Based on the two postcards above, I think this one shows the same greenhouse in the Lincoln Park Conservatory but from the opposite direction.

Garfield Park Conservatory Chicago Ill

This vintage postcard reads: "Interior Garfield Park Conservatory, Chicago,Ill."

Unfortunately, the conservatory in Washington Park no longer stands because it was demolished in the 1930s after falling in disrepair. Today you can still visit the Garfield Park and Lincoln Park conservatories if you live in Chicago or just come to visit. They're free and open to the public and I can't recommend visiting them enough.

It's interesting to see Chicago parks depicted in these vintage postcards because they give us a glimpse into the past when the appreciation and maintenance of these green and public spaces was at their all time high. It's also interesting to see how horticultural tastes have evolved from the days when plants were appreciated by being potted up and raised up the eye level of the visitors. If you visit today, you'll notice that the plantings are more natural and reflect Jens Jensen's approach to interior landscaping. Walking through our conservatories feels a lot like taking a stroll through giant terrariums.

Learn more about the history of Chicago's parks in Inspired by Nature: The Garfield Park Conservatory and Chicago's West Side and The City in a Garden: A History of Chicago's Parks, Second Edition (Center for American Places - Center Books on American Places)

Have you visited the Garfield Park and Lincoln Park Conservatory before?  


  1. Thank you for sharing "old Chicago" a nice treat. I'll have to put that on my to do list ASAP.

  2. I just love these, been to Garfield Park Conservatory but not Lincoln Park.


    1. Eileen, you need to change that. I recommend going to the Lincoln Park Conservatory during the Christmas season when the model trains are up and running. :0)

  3. Would love to visit Garfield Park!

    This post struck me because I bought my grandparents house who sadly passed several years back and stumbled upon lots of old postcards that they had saved from many, many years ago from Russia, where they lived until they immigrated to the U.S. It was fascinating to see these old shots (looked more like photographs) and to see what they sentimentalized.

    1. If you are ever in Chicago, Laura, the Garfield Park Conservatory is a quick train ride from downtown. Aren't old postcards the best? I recently took a trip and was so disappointed with the quality of art and creativity in modern post cards.

  4. So cool! It's a shame about Washington Park, the building looked really neat. Is the lake still in use?

    1. Garden Broad, yeah, the park itself is still in use. It is just the greenhouse/conservatory that is gone. It looked like a beautiful thing to behold.