Garden History

Groundbreaking ceremony Groundbreaking

The Chicago Botanic Garden's journey began on September 25 when ground was broken on over 300 acres of marshy lowland in Glencoe, Illinois.



First On-Site Plant Sale First Plant Sale

The first plant sale was held by the Woman’s Board of the Chicago Horticultural Society (the first on-site plant sale held in July 1972 is pictured). The plant sale was renamed A Bloomin’ Sale in 1995. 

Planting First Tree First Tree Accessioned

A white fir became the Garden’s first newly acquired tree.

New Chicago Horticultural Society President

Dr. George Beadle was appointed Chicago Horticultural Society President.

Bulldozers work at site Garden Islands Sculpted

Bulldozers shaped the Garden site, designed by John Simonds and Associates.

First Buildings Completed First Permanent Buildings Completed

The Garden’s first permanent buildings, the maintenance building and the research and production facility, were completed. Both were designed by Harry Weese & Associates.

Production Greenhouses Production Greenhouses Completed

The Garden’s ability to propagate new plants was greatly enhanced.

First Garden Botanic Garden Opened

With one completed garden and an ambitious master site plan, the Botanic Garden of the Chicago Horticultural Society opened to the public.

Nature Trail Turnbull Woods Opened

The 11.5-acre woodland opened, featuring a nature trail. In 1994, the Cook County Forest Preserve District transferred management of 88.5 additional acres of Turnbull Woods to the Garden, and the Garden’s scientists became responsible for its restoration. In 1996, the entire 100-acre woodland was dedicated as Mary Mix McDonald Woods. 

Chicago Horticultural Society President and CEO Appointed

Dr. Louis B. Martin was appointed Chicago Horticultural Society President and CEO.

Children's Garden Children's Programs On-Site

Chicago Horticultural Society’s children’s programs began at the Garden, and the first summer vegetable garden project for needy children was launched.

First Board Meeting

The first meeting of the Board of Directors of the Chicago Horticultural Society was held at the Garden on June 17, 1972.

Education Center Groundbreaking Education Center Groundbreaking

Work began to create a site for an array of public activities and programs.

Orchid Show First Flower Show

The first flower show was held on-site. Currently, all flower shows held at the Garden are part of the American Flower Show Series.

Japanese Garden Design Japanese Garden Construction Began

Work began on the three islands of the 17-acre Japanese Garden which was designed by Koichi Kawana. Currently, this garden is called the Malott Japanese Garden. 

Garden for the Handicapped Garden for the Handicapped Dedicated

This garden opened to demonstrate how people of all abilities can enjoy gardening.

Offices Moved to Glencoe

Staff and services moved from the Chicago office to Glencoe.

Lake Cook Road Entrance Lake Cook Road Entry Opened

This became the Garden’s public entrance.

Early Tram Tram Tours Began

Two trams were acquired, and in honor of the nation’s bicentennial, 2.7-mile tram tours were offered to visitors.

First Holiday Festival First Holiday Festival

A five-week winter holiday festival was launched.