Wilder Park Conservatory and Greenhouse Restoration Project Begins

The Conservatory is now closed in preparation for the start of construction that will begin on June 3 with an anticipated reopening in February 2014. Construction fencing will be installed on the site after Memorial Day. Thank you for your patience as we begin this historic undertaking. Please call (630) 993-8915 for questions.

The Park District has been selected to receive a $1.84 million state grant to restore the conservatory and two greenhouses in Wilder Park. The 88 year old Wilder Park Conservatory was the Park District’s first capital project and is due for a facelift. The conservatory will get new vestibule doors and frames, new interior walkways that are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, updated heating, an automated venting system, and upgrading plumbing and electrical systems to provide energy efficient climate control.

The grant is part of a total $50 million in park and recreational facility construction grants awarded by the governor’s office, and is expected to pay for about 75 percent of the $2.4 million conservatory rehabilitation project. Funding for these grants was made available through the state’s Illinois Jobs Now! capital program, which is expected to create more than 300 jobs statewide.

Architectural Services

In July 2012, the Park Board selected John Eifler & Associates to provide architectural services for the project. Based on interviews, discussions with references, and submitted materials, Eifler and Associates stood out as a firm that possesses a solid track record of providing professional architectural services for unique, historical projects that are of similar scope to the Wilder Park Conservatory project. Eifler’s portfolio features national and local projects including work at Garfield Park Conservatory and historical restoration projects throughout Chicagoland. Their passion, knowledge and experience are a great match for this unique restoration, renovation and new construction project.

Construction Management Services

In April 2012, the Park Board approved the contracting of James McHugh Construction to provide construction management services for the project and on April 10, 2013 approved the design plans for the project, as well as approving the Guaranteed Maximum Price for the project of $2,467,207. McHugh has considerable experience working on historically significant structures including the Blackstone Hotel, the Goodman Theatre, the Lyric Opera of Chicago and the historically restoration of our very own Wilder Mansion.

Scope of the Project

A primary goal of the Conservatory restoration is to preserve the existing structure and external appearance while maintaining the user experience. The existing south greenhouse, originally built in the 1860’s, predates the Conservatory, while the north greenhouse was constructed in 1926, a few years after the Conservatory was built. Both greenhouses have been repeatedly modified over the years, and neither structure has maintained many original components that would lead to inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. Therefore, the project calls for the two deteriorating structures to be replaced with a single aluminum structure larger than the existing Conservatory. The restored Conservatory will occupy its original 1,500 sq. ft. footprint, and the new greenhouses will be 3,000 sq. ft. While larger than the conservatory, the new greenhouses have been designed to appear secondary in significance by maintaining a low profile with a lower ridge line. The final component of the project is the structure referred to as the propagating house, (or more commonly, the polyhouse). The current propagating house is comprised of an inexpensive, temporary structure commonly known as a hoop house. A new propagating house will be built apart from the greenhouse and conservatory, on the east side of the maintenance garage where the existing polyhouse is located. The restoration of the Conservatory and the building of the new state-of- the-art green house will allow the District and the community to have the best of both worlds, the old and the new. The Conservatory and greenhouse will be separated by an ADA-Accessible vestibule that will connect to the Wilder Park Formal Gardens and will clearly delineate the old and new structures.