The goal of Project New Leaf has always been to preserve and enhance Cantigny Park for current and future generations of visitors. We’ve made significant progress toward that objective in 2019 during Phase II.

Also this year, Cantigny guests enjoyed the fruits of our work so far, including the new Rose Garden, Display Gardens, a new restrooms and information building on the Oak Colonnade, Butterfly Hill overlook and the expanded Hosta Garden. Plus, the 325 additional parking spaces in the south lot came in handy during our largest special events.

It hardly seems possible that the renovated First Division Museum opened more than two years ago, the first major milestone for Project New Leaf. In 2019, outside the museum, we dedicated a 9/11 memorial, symbolically linking the terrorist attacks with stories of 1st Infantry Division men and women who answered the military call of duty.

This month, in the museum’s courtyard, we installed five etched-glass markers to honor all 1st Infantry Division soldiers lost in combat from World War I to the present. We’ll formally dedicate the monuments on Memorial Day 2020.

We focused this fall on completing as much hardscape work as possible so that planting can begin in the spring. Construction of the central fountain east of the Visitors Center is finished, as is the Prairie View Pavilion on the site of the former Rose Garden. These locations will be landscaped in 2020 before reopening to visitors.

Restorative work on the reflecting pool south of McCormick House also is complete. Patio construction on the east side of Le Jardin, overlooking the gardens, is underway.

Several new walkways are now open, including a brick-paved connector path from the back of the Visitors Center to the First Division Museum, an east-west path along the north side of the Tank Park, and another east-west passage leading to the Exedra and Education Center. The expanded brick area behind the Visitors Center, complete with seat walls, provides a central gathering space for guests.

With permanent lighting installed along the new pathways, we look forward to hosting more evening activities in the garden areas east of the Visitors Center. A new signage system, fabricating this winter, will help visitors find their way around the park. New benches are in place with more on the way.

In 2020, we’ll continue our practice of reopening areas as they are completed. We look forward to revealing updated and all-new sites, including the Idea Garden, Octagon Garden, Rock Garden, Fountain Garden, McCormick Allée and Prairie View. These elements and truly the entire Cantigny property will feel better connected thanks to improved sightlines and easier navigation.

Work on McCormick House and surrounding landscapes, the final phase of Project New Leaf, is projected to begin late next year. Colonel McCormick’s historic home is well over 100 years old so there is much to do! Our plans are being finalized and I will share more details soon.

I hope you like what Project New Leaf has achieved so far. The “homestretch” of Phase II begins in March, weather permitting. With most of the earth-moving behind us, and with finished areas reopening, 2020 should be a more inviting year for visitors.

Thank you once again for your patience during this transformative time in Cantigny’s history. I’ll keep you updated on our progress, and please continue to send me your questions and comments.

Matt LaFond
Executive Director
Cantigny Park

This aerial view shows the main construction focus of Phase II, which will conclude around Labor Day 2020. Some elements will reopen to the public sooner.


Masons lower a section of coping stone on the new fountain. The water feature will be a focal point in the renovated gardens located east of the Visitors Center.


Three of the five First Division memorials are shown here, in the museum’s courtyard. Additional landscaping around the markers is still to come.









Posted by Jeff Reiter

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