Garfield Park Conservatory Heavily Damaged by Hailstorm
July 6, 2011

Photo: Matthew Barrett
Often referred to as "landscape art under glass," Chicago’s Garfield Park Conservatory sustained catastrophic damage during a hailstorm late last week that shattered approximately half of the glass in the roofs of the historic Fern Room, Show House, and nine propagation greenhouses. The glass in the Desert House also sustained significant damage.

As the Chicago Tribune reported, “Portions of the ceilings in the smaller growing houses are up to 50 years old. The panes of glass are thin and brittle. All nine growing houses were decimated by hail, leaving thousands of seedlings and young plants unprotected from the elements.”

A multi-year, multi-million dollar plan to restore the entire Conservatory began in 1994 and since then many areas of the building have been renovated, including the glazing in some parts. According to Zvezdana Kubat, a spokesperson for the Conservatory, the rooms not damaged had been upgraded to double-glazed, laminated glass. The other areas still included monolithic glass.

Photo: Matthew Barrett
Kubat says while the clean-up process has begun, replacements have not yet started as the Conservatory is not to that point yet. Damage estimates are not available at this time.

Constructed between 1906 and 1907, Garfield Park Conservatory was designed by landscape architect Jens Jensen in collaboration with Prairie School architects Schmidt, Garden and Martin and the New York engineering firm of Hitchings and Company. According to information from the Conservatory, “Jensen conceived the Conservatory as a series of naturalistic landscapes under glass, a revolutionary idea at the time.”

According to one industry source who is familiar with the Conservatory, the original glazing was monolithic, drawn sheet glass approximately 3/32 inches thick, which was prone to break easily.

“A lot of the wood sash is original, which means that it is hard to work with and in many cases the framing is in pretty bad shape as well. I would guess that on average the Chicago Park District has spent many thousands of dollars each year for the past many years in glass replacements and repairs,” the source notes.

CLICK HERE to read a related article from the Chicago Sun Times.

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