I hope this message finds you in good health as we close out a most unusual year. We missed being able to host in-person concerts, lectures and special events. Park visitors told me, however, that they appreciate being able to enjoy the gardens and grounds during these uncertain times.

Project New Leaf rolled on during 2020, despite the pandemic. In fact, we accomplished a lot, completing Phase II of the project and beginning Phase III, the final piece.

This year’s work, as you probably know, involved a lot of territory, primarily in areas east of the Visitors Center. The Fountain Garden opened in July and is already a popular gathering spot. The fountain itself mimics the original design chosen by Franz Lipp when he laid out the gardens in the 1960s.

We completed the restoration of the McCormick Allée, also with a keen eye to the past. The newly planted avenue of London Planes is thriving, adding a new vitality to the heart of Cantigny Park. As the allée matures, the views looking south from the mansion, and looking north towards the mansion, will only become more impressive.

Prairie View also will benefit from a full growing season in 2021. This is the open area east of the allée, marked by a newly built pavilion, event lawn and seat wall. Trails through the landscape reveal an ecosystem of native trees, grasses and wetland plants that appeal to the eye and support wildlife.

One of Project New Leaf’s key advancements is improved accessibility. Phase II created a direct hard-surface passage from the Visitors Center to the fountain, allée and Prairie View. Throughout the park, everything is better connected and getting around is easier. A first wave of new directional signage is being installed now, with more standards coming next spring. We’ve increased seating and lighting along the pathways, too.

Other Phase II elements we’re proud of are the all-new Rock Garden and restored Octagon Garden. Next spring, we will reopen the Idea Garden with its new “native riverscape.” Full details and photos of these gardens are available on the Project New Leaf website.

If you dined outside at Cantigny this year, maybe you sat on the east patio of Le Jardin, overlooking the gardens. The venue is yet another Phase II enhancement that caught on quickly with guests.

Phase III is all about McCormick House, inside and out. A comprehensive restoration and update of Colonel McCormick’s historic home is just getting started and should be completed in early 2022. We’ve posted a brief video about the work ahead and will keep you informed about our progress during this important final phase of Project New Leaf.

We hope for a return to normal operations at some point in 2021. Our staff members and volunteers thank you for your patience during the pandemic and for following proper safety guidelines during your visits.

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Cantigny and please be safe.

Matt LaFond
Cantigny Park
Executive Director

Fall color and new attractions like the Fountain Garden brought many visitors to Cantigny for recreation and family photos during the pandemic. Photo by Lee Hogan.

This dawn photo depicts the new fountain at its tallest display, occurring the top of every hour. Photo by Jack Bannister.

The Prairie View pavilion and event lawn occupy the site of the old Rose Garden. The new Rose Garden is located just north of the Visitors Center, behind the hedges of Japanese Yew.

Ample seating opportunities, improved pathways and new lighting are now standard throughout Cantigny Park.

The new Rock Garden is full of surprises, including these Dianthus (“Tiny Rubies”) emerging from a crevice.

The park’s new wayfinding system, more than a year in the making, will be fully installed next spring.

The renovation of McCormick House, the third and final phase of Project New Leaf, will conclude in 2022.


Posted by Jeff Reiter

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