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A Look Into Chicago's Free Indoor Greenery

[Photo: Lincoln Park Conservancy]

It may not substitute for an island vacay, but a visit to one of Chicago's greenhouses in the cold months is sure to leave you feeling fine. There aren't many, and they're not evenly distributed, but a couple of them are among the nation's finest. From the tropical rooms, to fruit tree plantings, to arid environments, Curbed takes a look at the extreme doctorings that might spare you a trip to the doctor.


102411-garfield.jpg1. Garfield Park Conservatory, 300 N Central Pk
Among the largest conservatories in the world, this Jens Jensen-designed plant palace opened in 1908, merging three older greenhouses that dated back to the construction of the West Park System in the 1880's. Altered and revamped more than once over the years, the conservatory is in a state of rebuilding after June's hailstorm shattered roughly half of the complex's thousands of window panes. Renowned for its grandiose Fern Room and its water features, only portions are open to the public while repairs are ongoing. Donate to the Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance to speed up the painstaking project. Free Admission.


102411-lincoln.jpg2. Lincoln Park Conservatory, 2391 N Stockton Dr.
The other flagship Park District conservatory, this classic Victorian structure was completed in 1895 as a showroom and grow facility for the city's parks. There are four distinct display houses: The Palm Room, Fern Room, Orchid Room, and Show Room. A testament to the popularity of greenhouses in the late-19th century, this was built to replace a much smaller greenhouse. At a time of heavy industrial pollution and choked cities, the greenhouse movement brought relief to the masses, and a renewed interests in plants and urban green space.


102411-kilbourn.jpg3. Kilbourn Park Greenhouse, 3501 N Kilbourn
The much smaller northwest side facility is notable for its signature fruit tree orchard. Planted in 2008, the trees will soon bear fruit for harvest. Host to an annual plant sale for community gardeners and emphasizing youth volunteering, this is a rich community resource. But it is, like the others, free and open to all.


conservatory.jpg4. Oak Park Conservatory, 615 Garfield St.
A 1929 Edwardian structure, the Oak Park Conservatory is worth checking out for its handsome design and 3,000+ collection of plants, some dating back to day one. It is primarily a grow operation for the region's parks. Placed on the National Historic Register in 2005, the conservatory was nearly demolished in the 70's. Just off the Oak Park Blue Line, it doesn't even feel like you've left the city.
·Chicago Park District
·Park District of Oak Park