Lincoln Park Conservatory
Another sunny and surprisingly pleasant fall day meant more ambling through Lincoln Park. The last time I was in the area, I had come specifically to do some serious leaf-peeping. This time, the Conservatory beckoned.
Lincoln Park Conservatory is the little brother of the much larger Garfield Park Conservatory, just a few miles west. Usually a cold weather refuge, wandering around this plant-filled sauna is a therapeutic experience. The Conservatory’s footprint is compact; it’s a squat little jewel that glitters from across the lawns and empty fall flowerbeds of the Park. From the outside, the milky glass and heavy steel skeleton obscure any view of its dense collection. On the inside, the glass walls disappear and you’re suddenly somewhere else.
In the Palm House, you’ll think you’re in a place that’s wild and vast. Mature palms and tropical greenery fill the space, cutting through air that’s thick with humidity. The stone pathways wind through and around an archetypal jungle. It’s easy to lose yourself in the infinite leaf shapes, the crowning fronds and reaching branches, the vines, crooked and curving. Sound lands heavily in the moist mud, and sunlight expands and focuses through the settling dew.
The Fern Room evokes prehistory, when we were still fish and scaled giants claimed the earth as their own. Ancient cycads rise from heaps of Polystichum. Clubmoss and giant Staghorns hover overhead. Furry rhizomes creep outward and over mossy rock, silently drinking up the steamy air.
Something about this place is familiar, accessible. Save for the loose crowd of strangers and staff, it’s a little too easy to imagine myself living here. I romanticize constantly being surrounded by all this green, waking up to the sound of water trickling over broad leaves, the smell of damp earth in every room. Isn’t this everyone’s idea of the perfect apartment?
I listen as nearby tourists point out the familiar — the same peace lilies and Sansevieria from their indoor gardens — as well as the rare and strange. This place reminds us of somewhere we already know, and of somewhere new, somewhere we hope to see. And among the footsteps, hushed conversation, peals of laughter, and silence, the plants just keep growing.
Lincoln Park Conservatory is located at 2391 N Stockton Drive in Lincoln Park, just south of Fullerton Ave. It is open daily from 9am to 5pm and is free to the public.