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Garfield Park: Despite Recent Struggles, It Has Good Bones

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Winding our way along the boulevards, we arrive at the centerpiece of the West Park Commission's three park system: Garfield Park, home of the renowned Garfield Park Conservatory.

Garfield Park, known originally as Central Park, was one of three large parks in Chicago's West Park System. Formally opened in 1874, the then 40 acre park started as a modest facility centered around the east lagoon. First laid out by William Le Baron Jenney in 1870 as an integral part of the city's emerging system of parks linked together by wide grassy boulevards, from which commercial traffic was excluded, Garfield Park was poised to become the destination park of the West side. By 1881 the park had swelled to its current size of 185 acres and was renamed in honor of slain President Garfield.

As the residential population in the West side increased through the late nineteenth century, there was increased demand for better facilities. With the retention of Jens Jensen as chief landscape architect for the West Park System, Garfield Park saw several major elements added within a short time.

The conservatory, constructed between 1906 and 1907, was jointly designed by Jensen, the architectural firm of Schmidt, Garden and Martin, and the engineering firm of Hitchings and Company. Often referred to as "landscape under glass," the conservatory was designed to emulate haystacks common throughout the Midwest. Shortly thereafter a pavilion, boat landing, refectory, and golf course were added, reflecting a distinct change in American leisure pursuits.

In 1928, the West Park Commission constructed the "Gold Dome Building" in Garfield Park to provide a new administrative headquarters for the West Park Commission. The structure was designed by architects Michaelsen and Rognstad, who were also responsible for other notable buildings including the Humboldt and Douglas fieldhouses. However, when the indepedent park commissions of Chicago merged to form the Chicago Park District the administrative offices were no longer needed and
the 'Gold Dome' building became Garfield Park's fieldhouse.

In 1994, the Garfield Park Conservatory began a long-term, multi-million dollar restoration project. Existing heating, plumbing, and ventilation systems were repaired and new facilities were constructed. Recently, the Conservatory has opened a Demonstration Garden that provides visitors with urban gardening resources.

Featured Property

Not everything makes sense in the world of real estate and the property available around Garfield Park is a perfect example. Once a proud middle class neighborhood with a world-class park at their doorstep, the community has tumbled into a reputation as one of the most unsafe and unstable in the city of Chicago... but still has the same world-class park. And that seems to be the conundrum with Garfield Park, it has the bones to become a great neighborhood once again, but routinely stumbles over itself. With multiple Green and Blue Line stops, direct access to the Eisenhower expressway, a Metra station, and of course, the park the East Garfield Park neighborhood was once "one of the ten up and coming neighborhoods in the United States," according to a 2007 Business Week article, yet this little economic downturn thing managed to stop the path of gentrification dead in its tracks.

Real estate, such as this handsome two-flat at 3415 W. Walnut St., were once hot commodities being snatched up by speculators and those hoping to get into an "up and coming" neighborhood before missing the bus. Purchased in 2005 for $215,000 this vintage property circa 1905 is being offered for just $59,000. While this may seem like a very low price, recent sales in the neighborhood suggest that a few more visits from PriceChopper may happen before someone feels comfortable purchasing this building.

The property features a 3BD, 1BA unit and a 2BD, 1BA unit with a total finished space of 2,356 square feet, most of it covered in refinished hardwood floors and appearing to retain most of its original wood trim, even after a central air system installation.

Is this a deal for a urban pioneer looking to stake their claim?
· Listing: 3415 W. Walnut St. [Redfin]