Photo by vathiman via Flickr
Today is the final day to enter the Metropolitan Planning Council-Chicago Architecture Foundation’s “What Makes Your Place Great? Your Secret Corner of Chicagoland” contest. We’ve already received so many great submissions, from northwest Indiana to the north suburbs of Chicago, and we hope to receive even more before the 5 p.m. deadline. Though I can’t legally enter the contest, I’m sharing my favorite place, in hopes of inspiring you to enter the contest today.
The Shakespeare Garden, just off Sheridan Road near Haven Street, on the campus of Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., has been one of my favorite hidden public places since I was a Wildcat undergrad. The garden was designed by renowned landscape architect Jens Jensen – but it’s not the garden’s only “celebrity” link: The Elizabethan-style stone bench and fountain, which encourage visitors to sit and stay awhile, were designed by Hubbard Burnham, son of Margaret Sherman Burnham, an early Shakespeare Garden chairwoman and wife of Daniel H. Burnham.
Literature lovers will appreciate that all of the garden’s flowers, shrubs, trees and herbs are mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays, including rosemary, lavender, thyme, hyssop, rue, lemon balm, columbine, old rose, oxeye daisy, Japanese anemone, daffodil, pansy, poppy, nasturtium, and marigold.
I think the Shakespeare Garden was the first time I understood the rejuvenating power of a less-than-public public place. In the midst of the hustle and bustle of a Big 10 campus, Shakespeare Garden was my oasis, a place to read a book or just sit and catch my breath in between classes. Though I had not yet begun my career in public policy, I could see how, with modest effort and investment, a small space was transformed into a community gem. Members of the Garden Club of Evanston, many of whom are Northwestern alumni, continue to serve as the garden's caretakers, making seasonal adjustments to keep the vibrant blooming and vibrant. They raise funds for plants and materials through plant sales at the Annual Evanston Garden Fair held in Raymond Park each spring.
Popular for garden tours, marriage proposals, weddings, or just relaxing, the Shakespeare Garden is open year round to all visitors. Now’s the perfect time to visit, for as Shakespeare wrote in The Winter’s Tale, “Here's flowers for you; Hot lavender, mints, savoury, marjoram; The marigold, that goes to bed wi' the sun and with him rises weeping: these are flowers of middle summer….”
Many of Chicagoland’s most cherished public spaces are tucked away in the hearts of neighborhoods, known only to a lucky few. This summer, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) and Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) are shining a spotlight on these special places across Chicagoland through the “What Makes Your Place Great? Your Secret Corner of Chicagoland” contest.
Through today, Monday, July 26, 2010, entrants can e-mail original photos or videos showcasing their favorite undiscovered public places across Chicagoland, along with a 250-word-or-less description, to firstname.lastname@example.org. The four chosen winners will win a prize package that includes passes to the Brookfield Zoo, Shedd Aquarium, Chicago History Museum, or CAF – and the chance to be featured in a CAF tour this fall.
To get your creative juices flowing, MPC staff has been profiling their favorite spaces throughout the summer. To enter your own favorite space, read the complete contest guidelines at placemakingchicago.com.