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Chicago Greenscapes (Winter 2003)

  • Monday, July 01, 2013

Built  as  part  of  the  original Garfield Park Conservatory in 1907, the Palm House was designed by Jens Jensen to represent a giant haystack glistening in the farm field. Jensen was a leader in the 'prairie' style and featured many idealized el­ ements of the rustic Midwest, its farms and people that so influenced his work. His only major public ar­ chitectural effo1t, the Garfield Park Conservatory was hailed as a 'Glass Palace' to rival the great conserva­ tories of the world.

After decade of great populari­ ty and huge crowds of visitors, the original steel and wood structure be­ gan to deteriorate severely. In 1957 it was replaced entirely with a new steel 1-beam structure and covered in the now infamous fiberglass sheet­ ing. Originally hailed as the material of the future, semi-transparent, du­ rable and inexpensive, the fiberglass yellowed with age and soon deprived the palm collection of life-giving light.

Download Rebuilding the Glass Palace