'What is an esplanade?' It is a level, open space; especially, a public walk, often along a shore. On June 25,The Chicago Botanic Garden opened its grand esplanade.
It is the latest addition to the385 acre garden, which hosts 800,000 visitors annually and is the second most visited garden in the United States.
Conceived by one of the greatest landscape architects of the 20th century, Dan Kiley (1912-2004) and designed by colleague Peter Morrow Meyer, the esplanade brings visitors close to the water from many directions, each with a different view. Opening events included sailing of miniature boats. Kiley envisioned the esplanade as a place of arrival, offering visitors glimpses of vivid sweeps of color against the water and sky. Some of the special features found here include the crescent, the green, the elm canopy, the esplanade fountain, the waterside terrace and the lake walk.
Two bronze sculptures enhance the esplanade. 'Canada Geese' greeted visitors for many years but has been moved along the western Lake Walk. It was created by William and David Turner and donated to the Garden in 1988. The new addition, 'The Sower' is a gift from the Art Institute of Chicago. This sculpture is an allegorical depiction of a man casting seeds. These symbolic 'seeds' were first sown at the Art Institute of Chicago, which housed the Chicago Horticultural Society from its founding in 1890 until 1950. 'The Sower' celebrates the Garden's historic relationship with the Art Institute and the Garden's commitment to spreading seeds of learning about plants and the natural world.
Created by Albin Polasek (1879-1965), who once headed the Art Institute's Sculpture Department, 'The Sower' has been in many locations: on the front steps of the Art Institute in 1917 and in 1918, at the Century of Progress World's Fair in Chicago in1934, and in storage at the Art Institute. The bronze with an almost black patina towers larger than life, the contours of his muscular body have the feeling of classic Greek and Roman sculpture. The concept of a sower fits perfectly with the garden.
For the opening of the Esplanade, the Waterside Terrace served as a launch site for some miniature boats. Young and old enjoyed this event.
The Esplanade is an exciting entry garden with grand public spaces and quiet intimate areas and it connects several existing gardens including the Heritage Garden, which is currently spectacular.
The Chicago Botanic Gardens with its 23 gardens, 3 native habitats, 9 islands, 15 acres of prairie, 100 acres of woods and 81 acres of waterways is a wonderful resource for the Chicago area. New areas are constantly being added as well as new activities. A photomural exhibit entitled, 'Dan Kiley: Master Landscape Architect' is currently on display. Model railroad, bells, Mariachis, kite-making and peppers are some of the themes for the remainder of the summer.
The Chicago Botanic Gardens are located at 1000 Lake Cook Road in Glencoe, IL. It can be visited online at www.ohwow.org
Photos by Barbara Keer