Crafting Your Experience

ChicagoParks + Nature
Julia Bachrach

Humboldt Park: Jens Jensen’s Experimental Grounds

Established 150 years ago, Humboldt Park can be thought of as a living landmark with layers of history that reflect contributions by important landscape designers, architects, and artists. The most noteworthy, Danish immigrant Jens Jensen (1860 – 1951), revered the indigenous scenery of the Midwest and created the Prairie style of landscape architecture. Humboldt Park provided important grounds for his process of experimentation. Jensen went on to design estates for prominent businessmen such as Julius Rosenwald, Harold Florsheim, and Henry Ford. Join Julia Bachrach, former Chicago Park District historian and author of "The City in a Garden: A History of Chicago’s Parks," on a journey to learn more about how Humboldt Park served as Jens Jensen’s Experimental Grounds.

  • 1.

    Work and Home

    Work and Home

    Jensen and his family lived in several different apartments near Humboldt Park over a period of more than 15 years. At the time, the neighborhood was largely made up of Scandinavian immigrants.

  • 2.

    Jensen Formal Garden

    Jensen Formal Garden

    Jensen described this as a “community garden” because it offered beauty and respite “to those who have no other gardens except their window sills.”

  • 3.

    Introduction

    Introduction

    Jensen found beauty where others did not!

  • 4.

    Sculpture in the Garden

    Sculpture in the Garden

    Jensen launched an innovative outdoor art exhibit in Humboldt Park in 1908 to explore the appropriate types and placement of sculpture in the landscape.

  • 5.

    Prairie Style Improvements

    Prairie Style Improvements

    Over a hundred years ago, Jensen made improvements to Humboldt Park that still seem fitting today.

  • 6.

    Humboldt Park Boathouse

    Humboldt Park Boathouse

    Over the years, many special events were held here, including a reception honoring Gina Krog, leader of the Norwegian Suffrage Movement, in 1909.

  • 7.

    Prairie River and Cascade

    Prairie River and Cascade

    This is one of the first water features that Jensen ever designed to specifically emulate the kind of natural river that would flow through a prairie landscape.

  • 8.

    Alexander von Humboldt

    Alexander von Humboldt

    Though largely forgotten today, Alexander von Humboldt was once the world’s most celebrated scientist.

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