The Friends of the Oak Park Conservatory and the Park District of Oak Park are delighted to announce that the Elsie Jacobsen Discovery Garden is now open! The Grand Opening took place on Saturday, September 12, 2015 at 10am.
The naming of the garden was an excellent way to commemorate one of Oak Park’s stellar champions. In the early 1960s the Conservatory had fallen into disrepair. Some suggested tearing it down to make more parking for Rehm Park. Instead, Mrs. Jacobsen started the “Save the Garfield Conservatory” (now known as the Oak Park Conservatory) drive in 1970. And save indeed they did. Without her efforts, the Conservatory would not exist today.
Elsie Jacobsen (1914 – 2003) was a tireless worker. In addition to saving the Conservatory she helped found the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust, the Oak Park- River Forest Historical Society, the Oak Park Council for Foreign Affairs, and was president of the District 200 School Board. In 1972 the Park District said, “Elsie Jacobsen has never served on a park board, never held a paying job in municipal government but her influences will long be felt in the village of Oak Park.”
In 2008 the Park District prepared plans for plantings and hardscape outside the Conservatory as part of the Conservatory’s Master Planning process. A portion of this plan, the Herbert M. Rubinstein Memorial Garden, was installed in 2011.
The Elsie Jacobsen Discovery Garden was designed by the landscape architecture firm Altamanu Inc. The Elsie Jacobsen Discovery Garden creates a space that invites both children and adults to explore nature in all seasons. It contains nooks and paths with opportunities to observe, touch and interact with plants and natural materials, through self-guided activities and facilitated programs. A water feature with pump travels the length of the garden from North to South. It will also has comfortable places to sit and relax. Plant selections demonstrate the many varieties native to or hardy in northern Illinois.
The Friends of the Oak Park Conservatory donated the total cost of the Elsie Jacobsen Discovery Garden project with a fundraising goal of $200,000. “The Friends of the Oak Park Conservatory has been a gracious partner of the Park District’s for many years.” stated Park Board President Paul Aeschleman. “Their generosity, volunteer spirit, and dedication to the Conservatory make Oak Park a more beautiful place to live.”
In addition to the garden project, the main entrance to the Conservatory and the frontage area along Garfield Street was renovated.