Washington Park Conservatory

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Washington Park Conservatory

For Flashback Friday this week we take a look at a long lost South Side treasure–Washinton Park Conservatory.

Washington Park Conservatory postcard back

Yours Truly
Edythe Heitmann
1020 Winona Ave.

A Few Small Enigmas

This postcard sent in 1909 has the address written as Winona Avenue, yet the designation for Winona is street. The 1909 Chicago address conversion guide [PDF] also uses street and not avenue for Winona. The sender’s address using the current system is 1342 Winona.

Although having a divided back and dating after the time when postcards were first allowed to contain written messages, in fine print straddling both sides are the words Nothing but address on this side. It’s a possibility that poor typesetting may have led Ms. Heitmann to believe that this type of card did not allow personalized messages.

Another anomaly is the white border on the postcard’s front. White border-era postcards are dated to after 1915, when World War I forced restrictions on ink usage.

Chicago Daily Tribune, November 2 1897

Chicago Daily Tribune, November 2 1897

The Conservatory

D.H. Burnham & Co designed the structure, and the firm was considered the country’s foremost expert on building conservatories. It opened in 1897.

Washington Park Conservatory. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress

Washington Park Conservatory in 1907. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress

The proximity to the World’s Columbian Exposition catapulted Washington Park into prominence, as the National Register nomination form for Washington Park explains:

Tropical plants that had been exhibited at the World’s Fair were donated to the Washington Park Conservatory. To house this large collection, one of the propagating houses from the fair’s Horticultural Building was  dismantled and re-erected in Washington Park as an addition to conservatory in 1895. Two years later, the  commission razed the existing conservatory and greenhouse facility. They replaced it with a handsome new structure designed by Lord & Burnham Company, the nation’s premier conservatory builder. The long rectangular building had a fanciful central house with two smaller houses at the far ends. In this conservatory, South Park Commission horticulturalists planted in beds in the ground, an innovative approach during this early period in conservatory history.

Sadly, in the 1930s the depression took its toll and this conservatory and those in Humboldt Park and Douglas Park were demolished, as the National Register nomination continues:

By the mid 1930s, the Washington Park Conservatory’s attendance rates had  declined significantly, and the building suffered severe deterioration. The park district closed the building in August of 1936, and demolished it shortly thereafter.

Although the conservatory is no longer extant, Washington Park has many other treasures including the Fountain of Time and original Refectory designed by Burnham. You can learn more about the park from from the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference.

More articles from Washington Park:

References and further reading:

One response to “Washington Park Conservatory”

  1. Karl Larson says:

    This is a very nice color-tinted postcard depicting the Washington Park Conservatory — and interesting tie-in with the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition. Too bad there’s no indication of a publisher or printer on the reverse side.

    As far as ‘undivided back’ vs ‘divided back’ — I think maybe this postcard series may have been ‘upgraded’ in 1907 to accept messages on the back by simply adding a dividing line on previously printed cards which already had the ‘Nothing but address on this side’ tag printed there.

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