“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Chicago in Cook County, Illinois — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)

Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool

Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool Marker image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, August 30, 2011
1. Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool Marker
Inscription. “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
Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool Marker image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, August 30, 2011
2. Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool Marker
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,
Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, August 30, 2011
3. Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool
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.
Erected by Friends of Lincoln Park.
Marker series. This marker is included in the Works Progress Administration (WPA) projects marker series.
Location. 41° 55.458′ N, 87° 37.997′ 
Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool - The Waterfall image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, August 30, 2011
4. Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool - The Waterfall
W. Marker is in Chicago, Illinois, in Cook County. Marker can be reached from North Cannon Drive 0.1 miles south of West Fullerton Parkway, on the right when traveling south. Click for map. This marker is located at the southern entrance to the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool. Marker is in this post office area: Chicago IL 60614, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. A different marker also named Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line); a different marker also named Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool (about 500 feet away); Lion House, Lincoln Park Zoo (approx. 0.2 miles away); “Rites of Spring” (approx. 0.3 miles away); Landmark Landings (approx. 0.4 miles away); Kennison Boulder Monument (approx. half a mile away); Hidden Truths (approx. half a mile away); Oz Park (approx. 0.6 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Chicago.
Also see . . .  Alfred Caldwell - Widipedia. (Submitted on October 4, 2011, by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California.)
Additional keywords. prairie style, works progress administration (WPA)
Categories. Arts, Letters, MusicHorticulture & Forestry
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California. This page has been viewed 584 times since then and 25 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on , by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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