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Garfield Park Conservatory Storm Damage and How You Can Help

Late last week during what seemed like an average summer storm for Chicago we were hit with a hailstorm that sent many of us running for cover. The next day we awoke to the damage caused by the storm. Many personal and community gardens were damaged in the storm, but one of the crown jewels of the Chicago Park District was severely affected. The Garfield Park Conservatory is unique place, not just because of the plant collection held here, but because of its history and what it means to the community.

Garfield Park Conservatory

The Garfield Park Conservatory was designed by Jens Jensen in 1906 and is located on Chicago's Westside in a neighborhood in need of revitalization. In the winter 1994 a cold spell devastated the conservatory's aroid collection. This setback lead to the creation of the Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance a coalition of individuals, groups and organizations in partnership with the Chicago Park District to bring the conservatory back. Together they formed a plan that gave the conservatory new life, goals and relevance in the gardening community. The Garfield Park Conservatory holds many workshops, events, classes and programs that educate the community about sustainable gardening practices.

In the winter it is my destination on those days I need to inhale the smell of moist earth, run my fingers over foliage or take in the colorful spectacle of blooms. The Fern Room (pictured above) is Jens Jensen's representation of what Illinois might have looked like millions of years ago. The lush ferns, rocky outcroppings and the indoor lagoon, gives us an idea of what prehistoric Chicago might have looked like. The majestic cycads are one of the oldest species of plants on earth.

Fern room Garfield Park Conservatory damaged after storm
Fern Room at the Garfield Park Conservatory after hail damage. Photo by Terri Reardon.

This is what the Fern Room looked like the day after the hailstorm damaged the Conservatory. Because of the Fern Room is most as risk because a majority of the glass that is whitewashed this time of year to provide shade was damaged, exposing the plants inside to the sun. Hail also damaged the ceiling in the production greenhouse and the Desert House, which houses a fantastic collection of cacti & Succulents.

Here is a aerial view of the damage to the entire Conservatory. Turn down the volume so you don't have to hear inane chatter of the news anchors.

The Conservatory had to be shut down indefinitely as crews began the cleanup and repair process. When the repairs will be completed and the Conservatory opened to the public again remains up in the air. What is known at this time is that the Conservatory relies heavily on donations to stay open and run their programs. The cleanup and repairs to the Conservatory will be costly.

How You Can Help
If you can spare a few dollars you can make a tax deductible donation to the Garfield Park Conservatory at this link. If you are able to help with the cleanup process contact Mattie Wilson.

Gardening Companies
If you are a gardening company that can make a donation of $500+ I will give you the opportunity to guest post and write about your products or services. Simply mention this post in the "notes pages" of your donation form and once I receive confirmation of your donation I will publish the post. As you can imagine staff and volunteers at the Conservatory are busy cleaning up and ensuring the plant collection is protected so it may take a few days for confirmation of your donation to reach me. While we wait for confirmation I can work with you in drafting your guest post, selecting garden photographs or videos to include that will appeal to the thousands of yearly visitors to this garden blog. After you've made your donation send me a message using the contact form in my About page so we can get started.

If you can't help with a monetary donation at this time you can help spread the word by sharing this post across Twitter, Facebook or emailing it to a gardening company who would be interested.


  1. Thank you for this post, the Garfield Park Conservatory is of great importance to my girlfriend and myself. It was heartbreaking to hear what has happened. the thought of the loss and possible loss is terrible. we will do everything we can to help.

  2. I am sure those plants were planted long time ago. Gosh it must be painful to see the plants in such state - subject to the cold now. I hope the gardeners and staff there will be able to save as many plants as possible. I hope many will response to donate. MBT you did a good job to get the ball rolling with this post :-)

  3. I love Garfield Park. It's one of my best memories as a kid growing up in Chicago. Good of you to post this!

  4. I went to make a donation but they don't accept PayPal. PP is my preferred method of doing online contributions; do you know anyone who is using PP to collect funds for this project?

  5. @Finding My Green Thumb, Good looking out man. Hope things are going well for you two in NYC.

    @Stephanie, Thanks Stephanie, it was the best thing I could think of right now. I use the conservatory a lot and take the nephews to their kids events, so I know just how valuable it is to our community.

    @Wendy, Thanks, Wendy!

    @Mamagotcha, I've emailed and asked about a PaylPal option for donations and as soon as I hear back I'll let you know.

  6. Hey there - The conservatory is open now, the Fern Room, Show House, and Desert house are closed while clean-up and repairs are underway.

    Thank you for your networking for support! It's so important to get the word out to everyone.

  7. Like Wendy I have fond childhood memories too of GPC - both family and school fieldtrips. I hadn't been back in years, and when I finally did, about three years ago with two of my adult daughters, those memories came flooding back. It's heartbreaking seeing the devastating damage. I can't get it out of my head. It's so good to see so many rallying to support the repairs. Kudos to you MBT for doing your part!

  8. @mommagotcha, I've been in contact with them and there's no plans for PayPal because of the fees associated with it. You can always mail them a check the address is at the link provided.

    @teresamarie Thanks for the update.

    @Garden Girl, Thanks. I felt like I had to do something and since I don't have deep pockets I figured this was one way I could help.



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