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As the city abandons its underutilized infrastructures, nature takes over and ad hoc trails appear before being officially open to public use. This was the case with the Sauganash Trail, where the old Skokie railroad used to be, and is now the case with the Mayfair cutoff, which the city plans to redevelop into the Weber Spur Trail.
These trails become connectors between neighborhoods, and between local communities and the greater region. And they perpetuate the tradition that Chicago was born from, a City in a Garden, as its 1837 incorporation motto declared: "Urs in Horto." Nowhere is this slogan more prophetic than in Chicago’s Northwest side and in Sauganash in particular, where many plant nurseries and greenhouses provided trees and flowers for the rest of the city and the whole country.
Pehr Peterson (1830-1903) came to Chicago from Sweden in 1854 and established his nursery in 1856. Soon his business covered 480 acres along Peterson Avenue and provided trees for the Chicago streets after the Great Chicago Fire, and for the Columbian Exhibition in 1893. Pehr and his wife, Mary Gage Peterson, were known for their many community connections and interest in making horticulture accessible to everyone. In 1903, his family donated land to the City of Chicago to create the municipal tuberculosis sanatorium in North Park Village.
Pehr’s son William (1877-1921), took over and was an active member of the committees that planned Chicago’s parks and horticultural developments. All three are buried in Rosehill Cemetery.
Where the nursery stood at the intersection between the Indian Boundary Line and the Mayfair cutoff, the Alarmist Brewing Company will soon open a tap room.