Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool

Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool (HMW8F)

Location: Chicago, IL 60614 Cook County
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Country: United States of America
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N 41° 55.458', W 87° 37.997'

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"Water has cut deeply into prairie soil. The clays and gravels of the Middle West are merely a thread on stone floors. In this loam, oak trees grass and corn take root."
Alfred Caldwell, 1943

A peaceful oasis surrounded by bustling Lincoln Park, the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool is one of Chicago's beloved landmarks. A Victorian garden and lily pool had existed on this site since 1889, but fell into disrepair. In 1937, utilizing funds from the Works Progress Administration, the Chicago Park District completely reconstructed the site. As project designer, Alfred Caldwell transformed the dilapidated area into a naturalistic "hidden garden in the city." Caldwell (1903-1998) was associated with and profoundly influenced by the Prairie School designers Jens Jensen and Frank Lloyd Wright.

By emphasizing the horizontal quality of the land and using plants that were native to the ecology of the Great Plains, the Prairie School designers sought to celebrate the native Midwestern landscape.

"Thus do the stratified ledges of the prairie embody the structural essence of the landscape. But this essence is more than scientific. The outcropping stone is architecture; strangely, deeply harmonious. Low mesas, rising from the rolling fields and pastures of the Middle West, are like cities in the landscape—incredibly beautiful horizontal formations that march with strong rhythm. The stones of the prairie are sweeter than the mountains, comprehensible and human. Of their delicate selves, a garden can be made."
Alfred Caldwell, 1942

"A small elongate lagoon, made riverlike in character, flows throughout the garden. This river, in a sense, has cut a channel through limestone, and the ledges are intermittently revealed. A waterfall at one end is the river's source. The entire garden is planted as a forest. A stone walk winds through the forest near the water's edge. Wildflowers cover the ground on each side."
Alfred Caldwell, 1942

Caldwell created the site as "a sanctuary of the natural landscape." He envisioned the lily pool as a symbolic prairie river, emerging from a forest and cutting its way through limestone bluffs of craggy outcroppings. Caldwell surrounded the dramatic stone and water features with native trees, ferns and wildflowers. He enhanced the site with a low pavilion and a council ring for informal gatherings.

In the next fifty years the Lily Pool underwent many changes, which dramatically altered Caldwell's design. Used for many years as a rookery for birds, the landscape eventually became degraded. The banks of the pond were denuded as the wildflowers were impacted by birds, foot traffic and invasive trees. Erosion became a severe problem, which prompted the addition of large expanses of stone to shore up the banks.

As the infrastructure continued to deteriorate, it became apparent that major rehabilitation was the only way to save the Lily Pool. In the 1990's, the Friends of Lincoln Park, in partnership with the Chicago Park District, raised funds to restore the site to Caldwell's original vision. The effort ensures that future generations will enjoy the beauty and serenity of the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool.

"The garden at Lincoln Park was planned as a sanctuary of the native landscape, a place sequestered from Megalopolis... a cool, refreshing clear place of trees and stone and running water—an exposition, in little, of the structure of the land. It was planned as a hidden garden of the people..."
Alfred Caldwell, 1942

This project made possible by
Chicago Park District
City of Chicago,
Richard M. Daley, Mayor
Friends of Lincoln Park
And many generous donations.
HM NumberHMW8F
Series This marker is part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) projects series
Placed ByFriends of Lincoln Park
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Saturday, September 20th, 2014 at 8:14am PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)16T E 447490 N 4641565
Decimal Degrees41.92430000, -87.63328333
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 41° 55.458', W 87° 37.997'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds41° 55' 27.48" N, 87° 37' 59.82" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)312, 773
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 2204-2332 N Cannon Dr, Chicago IL 60614, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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