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Garfield Park Conservatory Races Mother Nature to Fix Storm Damage

By Prescott Carlson in News on Sep 15, 2011 7:40PM

Damage to the Garfield Park Conservatory Show House. Photo: Chicago Park District

As a Canadian cold front breezes into Chicago prompting month-early frost warnings, the Garfield Park Conservatory is trying to protect its variety of lush flora from the elements.

At the end of June, a major hail storm caused significant damage to three of the conservatory's main display greenhouses -- the Fern Room, the Show House and the Desert House. Over half of the glass in the display houses was damaged, forcing the conservatory to close to the public. To make matters worse, all nine production houses also sustained severe damage.

While some plants were able to be moved to the Lincoln Park Conservatory, many were moved outdoors, and most of the plants in the Fern Room could not be moved at all. For those plants that require a tropical environment, it's a huge issue heading into a Chicago winter, which is decidedly the opposite conditions in which the plants thrive.

According to the Chicago Tribune, a temporary roof has been put in place in the Fern Room, but the temps and humidity were still far from ideal.

It's going to run the conservatory at least $2 million in cleanup costs alone, and with how much it's going to cost to repair the structures up in the air, the Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance is undertaking a fundraising effort to fill its coffers. Alliance president Eunita Rushing told the Trib that they "appreciate Chicago stepping up to support us," and asked for residents to "continue to support us throughout this process, because it will take time."

That's quite the understatement -- so far, only $56,000 has been raised towards its goal. Donations to the Garfield Park Conservatory can be made online, with gift levels anywhere from $25 to $1000 for various levels of membership.