Despite the current health crisis, there’s a feeling of great anticipation here at Cantigny. With winter behind us, we’re glad to be back outside and working again!

That said, COVID-19 is slowing our progress a bit as we follow the latest CDC guidelines. Work crew health and safety is top priority, now more than ever.

For project management, including construction meetings, we’re using video conferencing and Facetime to maintain social distancing as we keep things moving forward.

Phase II of Project New Leaf began a year ago, with work concentrated on the gardens and grounds east of the Visitors Center. Heavy earthmoving is mostly behind us, and favorable weather last fall allowed us to make significant progress on some key hardscape areas. One of them is the all-new fountain, which when activated this summer will closely recall the tranquil water feature in use prior to 2009.

We also completed the Prairie View Pavilion on the site of the former Rose Garden, and the patio on the east side of the Visitors Center, adjacent to Le Jardin. Landscaping these areas is next, once it’s warm enough for planting.

A completely rebuilt reflection pool south of McCormick House will receive water this spring. At that time we’ll also reinstall the iconic mermaid statue, or “Siren.” You can read about her restoration in this issue of NEW LEAF.

Phase II work on the Green Garden, Idea Garden, Octagon Garden and Rock Garden also continues. These updated “garden rooms” will be more appealing than ever. We’re especially excited about the Rock Garden—something entirely new for Cantigny.

An east-west pathway will connect the Visitors Center, Fountain Garden and Prairie View, crossing through the restored McCormick Allée. We look forward to a more connected feeling throughout the park, one of the central goals of Project New Leaf. You began to see this in 2018 and 2019 with improved sightlines.

Improved wayfinding is on the horizon, too. We’ve already enhanced the park’s pathways, outdoor seating and lighting. Now come the signs, and we’ve put much thought into their design and placement. COVID-19 is currently delaying fabrication but we hope to begin the first wave of signage installation this summer.

Late last fall we placed five etched-glass markers in the First Division Museum courtyard, located on the golf course side of the building. The monuments honor all 1st Infantry Division soldiers lost in combat from World War I to the present. We hope to conduct a formal dedication on Memorial Day, May 25.

The final touches on Phase II should occur in late summer. Before then, we’ll continue to open finished areas on a rolling basis so that visitors can experience as much of Cantigny as possible. The park will be open every day and our usual full schedule of events is planned.

Of course, COVID-19 makes it difficult to plan ahead. Please watch the home page and our social media channels for updates on park operations.

The third and last phase of Project New Leaf focuses on McCormick House, Colonel McCormick’s former home. The museum will close in August to prepare for the comprehensive renovation. We anticipate McCormick House reopening for tours in 2022.

We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished through Project New Leaf so far and hope you are enjoying the changes. Cantigny and our renovations were recently featured in Public Garden Magazine. Please click here to read the story.

Thank you again for your patience during this transformative time in the park’s 62-year history. Your questions and comments are always welcome.

Stay well,
Matt LaFond
Executive Director
Cantigny Park

This aerial image taken on March 14 shows the primary Phase II contruction area, the current focus of Project New Leaf. (photo courtesy of Lee Hogan)

This artist rendering of Prairie View is looking eastward, with the new pavilion in the foreground. Visitors will enjoy an expanse of Illinois prairie grasses framed with native trees, styled after the work of Jens Jensen, the early 20th-century landscape architect.

The 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, will feature attractive views of the gardens and McCormick House beyond.

Brick work is well underway in the Octagon Garden, a popular space east of the Visitors Center. The garden will continue to feature seasonal floral displays, and the central vine trellis, already in place, will support flowering Clematis.

The recreated Cantigny fountain will provide a lively visual anchor at the center of the gardens behind the Visitors Center. From there,  a new east-west pathway will connect to the McCormick House Allée, Idea Garden and the new Prairie View landscape.



Posted by Jeff Reiter

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