Jensen Formal Garden

Restoration Project


Humboldt Park

Chicago Illinois


Jensen Formal Garden Restoration

Humboldt Park, Chicago Il

Humboldt Park’s historic Formal Garden needs restoration. Renowned landscape architect Jens Jensen (1860 - 1951) designed the garden and its surrounding landscape in 1908. Today, Jensen is recognized as one of the nation’s most significant landscape designers and Humboldt Park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The circular garden is still a beautiful and special place, but it needs attention. Its concrete walls and pergolas are cracking and the wood is rotting. Some beds have been sodded over, and only minimal floral annuals remain. The Chicago Parks Foundation (CPF) and Chicago Park District are joining with members of the community to restore the beautiful and iconic garden for the community, and all of Chicago, to once again enjoy.


Humboldt Park is intrinsic to its community’s identity. In fact, the surrounding neighborhood takes its name from the park. Humboldt Park is composed of a diverse population and many residents are involved with community improvement efforts - most notably greening and community gardening projects. The Humboldt Park neighborhood is known for its outstanding historic architecture, and it's residents have great appreciation for the park’s historic features and landmark buildings.


The Jensen Formal Garden Restoration will be conducted in two phases with an opportunity for additional improvements to follow. The scope of work includes restoring deteriorated pergolas, walls, and pavement, as well as incorporating new paths to provide accessibility for People with Disabilities. New and improved floral beds will be planted following Jensen’s historic palette with new additions where appropriate. Additional elements can include benches, urns, and the restoration of the reflecting pool - all with naming possibilities and/or donor recognition.


Often described as “Dean of the Prairie style landscape architecture,” Jens Jensen is known for using native plants and naturalistic forms. His style evolved through a process of experimentation and Humboldt Park served as a living laboratory for its development. The Formal garden was an important element of Jensen’s design. Completed in 1908, it featured semi-circular beds of roses and other perennials emanating from rectangular forms at the lower level, and an upper terrace with wooden and concrete pergolas. Jensen believed the Garden was an important asset to the surrounding neighborhood. He called it a “community garden” explaining that it was created for “those who have no other gardens except their window sills.” Restoring Jensen’s Formal Garden also restores his vision of providing beautiful landscape spaces for those who have no other gardens.


Jensen Formal Garden's Past


Chicago Parks Foundation

The mission of the Chicago Parks Foundation is to build a stronger community dedicated to supporting and conserving parks in Chicago.


Guiding us in our mission are our core principles:


Collaborating with individuals, corporations, foundations, and community organizations to support Chicago parks and better understand and prioritize community needs and resources


Providing relevant and purposeful programming


Celebrating donors and volunteers


Measuring success with transparent metrics


The Garden Conservancy

The Chicago Park District, Chicago Parks Foundation is partnering with the Garden Conservancy of New York to make major improvements to Humboldt Park’s historic Jens Jensen Formal Garden.


Rehabilitating the beautiful and iconic circular garden, completed by the internationally renowned landscape designer Jens Jensen in 1908, will be a grand feat for the national non-profit organization that brings their expertise in garden preservation, design, and management practices.


“We are thrilled to be part of this important effort, as it marks not only our first major preservation project in the upper Midwest and in an urban center, but also the first Jens Jensen-designed garden in our portfolio,” said Garden Conservancy Preservation Committee Chair Susan Lowry. “By rehabilitating this historic garden, the project will also revitalize a much-loved community resource.”


The Garden Conservancy is a nonprofit organization established in 1989 by noted plantsmen Frank Cabot to save and share outstanding American gardens for the inspiration and education of the public. The Garden Conservancy fulfills this mission through education programs, a national Open Days garden visitation program, and preservation work, and thereby champions the vital role that gardens play in our history, our culture, and our quality of life.


The Chicago Park District

Urbs in horto

In the 1830s, Chicago's emerging government adopted the motto "Urbs in horto," a Latin phrase meaning "City in a Garden." The slogan proved to be prophetic. For nearly two centuries, Chicago's citizens have rallied for the creation and protection of parkland, and many of the city's parks have served as testing grounds for important ideas and social movements. Many of the parks were originally created or shaped by nationally acclaimed architects, planners, landscape designers, or artists, such as Daniel H. Burnham, Frederick Law Olmsted Sr., Jens Jensen, Alfred Caldwell, and Lorado Taft.