Walking around the Gold Cost neighborhood today it is hard to imagine that this Near North neighborhood was once declared a “slum” through the Land Clearance Act of 1948. Today, the neighborhood is home to some of Chicago’s wealthiest residents, designer boutiques like Giorgio Armani, Chanel, Harry Winston, and many more. I’m not old enough to remember this neighborhood when it was littern-strewn and filled with overcrowded rooming houses. To me it has always been the “Gold Coast” of the 19th centurty from books and vintage pictures. It is as if the neighborhood never underwent a period of decline and ultimately a resurgence- a rebirth that can be attributed to a garden walk. Yes, a garden walk.
Photos by http://www.lindsayschlesser.com
In 1955, residents Louise & Harper Richards started a garden walk and convinced neighbors to open their homes and gardens to the public. The Garden walk was a means to inspire others to transform rubble-filled yards into gardens and bring the neighborhood back. Today the Dearborn Garden Walk, in its 52nd year, is one of America’s oldest garden walks and attracts visitors from all around the City and the world and even has its own hard cover book, The Gardens of Chicago’s Gold Coast.
The one-day garden walk is self-guided and features 20 private rear gardens, up from the five it originally began with in 1955. This year there’s a “Hollywood-Inspired” theme of garden vignettes, live music in select gardens and a sidewalk tour of historic Dearborn Parkway that covers both pre and post-Chicago fire structures.
If you’re interested in experiencing the garden walk that transformed a Chicago neighborhood, and possibly incorporating something similar in your neighborhood, you can take the tour on July 18, 2010. As for me, I’m really interested in seeing how the other half gardens; for years I’ve wondered what the spaces behind those mansions looked like and now I’ll get a chance to see them. I was given a copy of The Gardens of Chicago’s Gold Coast and some of the gardnes gave me some ideas I hope to incorporate in my own garden.
Tickets are $30 in advance $35 the day of the tour. Below, details and information so you can plan to attend the Dearborn.
Out-of-town visitors can take part in the special “Garden Walk Package” presented by Hotel Indigo – just steps from the Garden Walk entrance. Enjoy an overnight stay and complimentary breakfast for two for $169. For more information, please visit: http://www.goldcoastchicagohotel.com
Children 16 years of age and younger accompanied by an adult, as well as North Dearborn Association Partner in Preservation members, are free. Admission includes a Dearborn Garden Walk program with a map for a self-guided tour of the gardens, live jazz and classical music in select gardens, and guided architectural tours of historic Dearborn Parkway. To become a North Dearborn Association Partner in Preservation member and receive one free admission or to order advance non-refundable tickets, telephone 312-632-1241; order on-line wwww.dearborngardenwalk.com; send check or money order payable to NDA c/o Carol Truesdell, 1241 N. Dearborn Street, #1, Chicago, IL 60610; or fax with credit card and mailing info to: 312-944-9342.
In addition to the self-guided walking tour and garden vignettes, visitors can participate in an hour-long, wonderfully entertaining and educational sidewalk guided tour of historic Dearborn Parkway that highlights the outstanding architectural facades in the neighborhood. The architectural tour, which starts at 1:30pm, 3:30pm, and 5:00pm, includes both pre and post-Chicago fire structures, sites that have been used in movies, homes formerly occupied by famous celebrities, and even a US President!