Garfield Park Conservatory still reeling from hail damage

September 14, 2011

By Lynette Kalsnes

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(Photo courtesy of Chicago Park District)
The conservatory right after the June 30 hailstorm. Broken glass has since been removed from some roofs, but not all.

The Garfield Park Conservatory on Chicago’s West Side is continuing cleanup efforts and unveiling a fundraising campaign Wednesday night following severe hail damage.

The June 30 hailstorm pounded the conservatory and damaged about 40,000 panes of glass.

Eunita Rushing, president of the Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance, said they've cleared glass from the plant beds and ceilings in the Show House and Fern Room. She said they’re nearly done putting in a temporary roof to protect the ferns from the looming cold. Ferns require warm, humid temperatures to survive.

Rushing says visitors Wednesday can see that roof, an open sky in the Show House, and shards of glass still hanging in the production houses.

“They'll see the commitment of the people who work here and care for this collection, that we really are interested in restoring every bit of it, every inch, every greenhouse, every production house and replacing every plant,” she said.

Some sections of the conservatory suffered little damage because they’d been recently renovated with double-pane glass, and they’ve remained open to the public.

But glass in the other sections, including the Fern Room, dated back to the 1940s, and as much as 85 percent of that glass was damaged, said Zvezdana Kubat, a Chicago Park District spokeswoman. Those rooms are still closed.

The conservatory is raising money for repairs with a campaign called One Pane at a Time. Donors can sponsor a pane of glass for $250 and up.

Cleanup costs are about $2 million, and there’s no estimate yet for repair costs, which are expected to go into the millions.