The first phase of Project New Leaf officially concluded in February with the opening of our new restrooms and visitor information building located on the Oak Colonnade, near the First Division Museum. The facility is a much-needed addition to the park and includes electronic display screens with event details and announcements.

More than two years into the project, we’ve accomplished so much. Finished elements such as the new display gardens, Colonnade, Butterfly Hill and Red Oaks Farm playground will greet visitors at the front of the park in 2019. An updated Visitors Center, improved walkways and lighting, and an expanded south parking lot await Cantigny guests as well. The newly refreshed “welcome film” now playing in the theater reflects all of these changes so be sure to have a look next time you stop by—or click here to watch it now!

This spring, Project New Leaf enters Phase II. Work this year and into 2020 will focus on the east side of Cantigny—areas not visible as you enter the park. Construction starts in May, so you’ll see fencing going up soon. In the aerial photograph to the right, areas within the yellow outline will be closed to visitors.

Key elements of Phase II include:

Fountain Garden
The historic Cantigny fountain will be recreated, providing a lively visual anchor at the center of the gardens behind the Visitors Center. From the fountain, a pathway will directly link visitors to the McCormick House Allée, Idea Garden and the new Prairie View landscape to the east.

Prairie View
Plans for the former Rose Garden site call for a wooden trellis and stone seat wall framing an open lawn. Looking east, visitors will enjoy an expanse of Illinois prairie grasses framed with native trees, styled after the work Jens Jensen, the early 20th-century landscape architect. We expect Prairie View to be a tranquil resting spot and popular for wedding ceremonies.

Octagon Garden
A full renovation is in store for this 8-sided “garden room,” including new brick pavers, edging, furnishings and a vine trellis supporting flowering Clematis in the center. The Octagon garden will continue to feature rotating floral displays, changing each spring, summer and fall.

Rock Garden
Expect a fresh new look, highlighted by the addition of crevices, ledges and an extensive gravel garden. These unusual elements—uncommon for the region—will widen Cantigny’s horticultural diversity.

Le Jardin Lawn and Patio
A new dining patio and event lawn, east of the Visitors Center, will supplement Le Jardin during large banquets and other events. The patio, also a day to day lunch venue, promises attractive views of the gardens and McCormick House beyond.

Green Garden
“Calm and restful” characterizes the plan for this serene garden room adjacent to the Octagon Garden. Plantings are simple and monochromatic, sharply contrasting with the colorful displays nearby—like the Keyhole Garden, a nice spot to relax.

World Trade Center Exhibit
Outside the First Division Museum, structural steel from the former World Trade Center buildings in New York will stand in memory of those lost in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

First Division Memorials
In the courtyard behind the museum, etched glass memorials will honor the 1st Infantry Division soldiers killed in the Division’s major engagements: World War I, World War ll, Vietnam, Desert Shield/Desert Storm and the Global War on Terror. The markers symbolize the sacrifices made in defense of human freedom.

Please refer to our new batch of artist renderings and sketches in the New Leaf Gallery to see our future vision for these key Phase II elements.

The Idea Garden, Education Center and garden areas just mentioned will be closed to visitors starting May 13. If you love roses, never fear, the Cantigny Rose Garden is now located adjacent to the new display gardens and should be in full bloom by the start of summer. As we begin the first full growing season for new plantings around the estate, I’m confident that garden enthusiasts and casual strollers alike will find plenty of color and horticultural magic at Cantigny in 2019.

As in 2018, the park remains open and we’re offering a full schedule of regular and special events. In fact, for our concerts, festivals and other activities at the “front” of the park, Phase II of Project New Leaf will have little if any impact. Access to McCormick House and the First Division Museum, likewise, is unrestricted.

Once again, thanks for your patience and support as we pursue our goal of making Cantigny a best-in-class destination. I welcome your comments or suggestions at

Matt LaFond
Executive Director
Cantigny Park


Phase II construction, starting in May, will take place within the yellow lines, directly east of the Visitors Center. The former Rose Garden is in the center of this photograph.


The new restroom and visitor information building on the Oak Colonnade will be especially welcome during large events on the Parade Field.


Digital message boards will inform visitors who stop by the new restrooms building along the Oak Colonnade.


During Phase II, the Spirit of Commitment sculpture, currently located near the Education Center, will be located to the First Division Museum grounds.


During Phase II, youth group camping will be relocated to the front of the park, near the picnic grove. Passing motorists will see the tents from Roosevelt Road, just like in the “old days” before the new campsites opened in 2010.









Posted by Jeff Reiter

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