A Brief Background
Jens Jensen (1860-1951), a Danish-American landscape architect, designed three notable landscape designs in Evanston. The first Shakespeare Garden in America was designed for the Garden Club of Evanston in 1917 on the grounds of Northwestern University and in 1937 the Wildflower Trail (also for the Garden Club of Evanston) on the grounds of the Grosse Point Lighthouse. His largest and most ambitious landscape in Evanston was the 4.7 acre landscape designed in 1927 for the Harley Clarke mansion, located at 2603 Sheridan Road.
Current State of Affairs
After substantial controversy about the future of the Harley Clarke mansion and grounds, which have been in need of restoration and maintenance, a substantial majority of Evanston voters approved a non-binding referendum to protect the mansion and the adjacent landscape fro demolition and preserve for use and access as public property at minimal cost to taxpayers.
Jens Jensen Gardens in Evanston, Inc. (the "Corporation") was organized in 2019 to restore and maintain the Jens Jensen landscape in its entirety, primarily through the use of private funds, as a botanic garden accessible to the public and providing education about Jensen's vision of natural and native landscape design.
In furtherance of this purpose, the Corporation organized a Jens Jensen Day for the public in Evanston on June 29, 2019. The day featured a showing of Carey Lundin's film about Jens Jensen, "The Living Green," tours of three local public garden/park landscapes in and near Evanston, and a lecture and tour guided by Robert Grese, author of Jens Jensen: Maker of Natural Parks and Gardens. More than 100 people attended the event at the cost of the Jens Jensen Gardens in Evanston, Inc. The Corporation's remaining activities in 2019 consist of initial fund-raising efforts fro individuals known to be supporters of local gardening and landscaping.
The Corporation plans further fund-raising efforts in 2020 and to begin - in the Spring, as funds become available - initial restoration efforts. These will include planning the entire project and beginning clean-up and restoration of trees, stone work, and paths to improve safety of the grounds. Other than planning and consultation, all activities will use the efforts both of professional landscapers and volunteers.
The Corporation will continue to engage in major fund-raising efforts in 2021 and 2022 as further project work is done. Fund-raising efforts will continue after the restoration project is completed in order to finance ongoing maintenance of the restored landscape gardens. The Corporation also intends to begin placing appropriate public signage. Project work in 2021 will comprise landscaping and architectural consultation to identify priorities and establish a timetable for completing restoration work and to begin preparation of soil contours and bedding for planting and maintenance. Calendar year 2022 will see further consultation about the landscaping design and implementation and major planting efforts to restore the gardens to Jens Jensen's original design (subject to the availability of suitable native plants).
A significant portion of the Corporation's funding will be devoted to paying one or more contractors for major structural work (e.g., earth moving and stone placement), but it also plans to use the work of volunteers for the planting, watering, and routine maintenance of the gardens.
The Corporation also intends to hold further public educational events along the lines of the 2019 Jens Jensen Day, but has made no specific plans as yet. It also intends to establish appropriate signage at the Harley Clarke mansion gardens and possibly to hold occasional guided tours.
The purpose of this resolution is to formally acknowledge the importance and significance of the Jens Jensen designed landscape located north of the Grosse Point Lighthouse on Sheridan Road in the City of Evanston and recognize this historic landscape with signage appropriate to its significance.
Jens Jensen (1860-1951), a Danish-American landscape architect, informed his designs with a philosophical belief in the humanizing power of parks and his commitment to working closely with indigenous plants and ecological processes of the region’s prairie landscape. His designs support climate resilience with features such as wetland gardens and incorporated council rings as places for gathering and performance.
Jensen created parks throughout the Midwest as well as designed three notable landscape designs in Evanston. The first Shakespeare Garden in America was designed for the Garden Club of Evanston in 1917 on the grounds of Northwestern University and in 1937, the Wildflower Trail (also for the Garden Club of Evanston) on the grounds of the Grosse Point Lighthouse. His largest and most ambitious landscape in Evanston is the 4.7 acre landscape designed in 1927 for the Harley Clarke mansion located at 2603 Sheridan Road. The area now comprises Lighthouse Landing Park and Lighthouse Beach Park owned by the City of Evanston.
The presence of these three Jens Jensen landscapes provides a significant Jens Jensen heritage in our community.