WIN: North Lawndale Sears Sunken Garden to Be Restored

“A century-old garden on the West Side that deteriorated over the years is being restored to its historic grandeur thanks to a community-led initiative.

“In the early 1900s, the Sears, Roebuck and Co. campus was the crown jewel of North Lawndale. Hidden within the stern Classical Revival-style buildings sprawled across the 40-acre headquarters was a pocket of lush greenery: the Sears Sunken Garden.

“The Foundation for Homan Square, which took over many of the Sears buildings, preserved the 2-acre park but has lacked the funding to continue the extravagant annual flower shows and water features it had at its prime, executive director Kevin Sutton said.

“Now, the foundation and several other groups are using a $150,000 grant to launch what could be a multimillion dollar overhaul to revive the space.

“‘I’m certainly hopeful this will be an opportunity to cast a fresh light on the cultural, historical and in this case horticultural significance of this area,’ Sutton said.

“The 2-acre park was an urban oasis that stood out against the red brick buildings and steel railroad tracks that surrounded it. The Sears Sunken Garden had fountains, reflecting pools, a greenhouse and flower beds unmatched by other parks of the time.

“‘It was a place for Sears staffers, many of which lived in the community, to have a respite, a place of peace and relaxation and enjoyment,’ Sutton said.

“When Sears began relocating its headquarters downtown in the 1970s, the local economy waned as residents were laid off from the warehouses and distribution facilities were being shut down. Many of the buildings were demolished, though some were preserved and turned over to the Foundation for Homan Square to be restored into schools, housing and office buildings for local nonprofits.

“The foundation preserved the Sunken Garden, which has been a National Historic Landmark for a century, Sutton said.

“Plans to redesign the garden are being spearheaded by Friends of Sears Sunken Garden, a nonprofit founded by a collaborative of neighborhood groups that had been organizing projects to improve the garden for several years.

“By incorporating the ideas of people who live in the area, the restoration of the Sears Sunken Garden can be a reminder of the neighborhood’s history and the fond memories many people have, Sutton said.

“‘It’s really been amazing to have a community-led effort. Many people will tell you they have reunion pictures and wedding photos, all sorts of memories in the garden,’ Sutton said.” (Sabino, Block Club Chicago, 4/1/22)

Read the full story at Block Club Chicago

West Side Neighborhood Groups Plan To Restore Historic Sears Sunken Garden To Its Former Glory; The National Historic Landmark fell into disarray when Sears relocated its headquarters Downtown. Now, residents want to make the garden a major public attraction again, Pascal Sabino, Block Club Chicago, 4/1/22

Ask Geoffrey: The Sears Sunken Garden, Quinn Myers & Masha Dolgoff, WTTW Chicago, 2/4/21

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