Rocking It

The Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool

Residents of Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo range from lurid flamingoes to torpid lions.

On the day of my visit, visitors to Lincoln Park also ranged from lurid to torpid.

Happily, I was able to find momentary respite from the animal kingdom in all its manifestations, with a leisurely stroll around the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool.

The National Historic Landmark was re-opened in 2002 after a concerted preservation and restoration effort: it had deteriorated badly after years of neglect.

Alfred Caldwell was an architect, best known for his landscape architectural works in and around Chicago. He was inspired by the work of fellow midwestern designers Frank Lloyd Wright and Jens Jensen, and created the lily pool as “a cool, refreshing, clear place of trees and stones and running water”.

Caldwell’s 1936 design, meant to represent a river flowing through a prairie landscape, replaced an earlier Victorian-style garden that had itself fallen into disrepair.

The lily pool sits in the middle of a stone landscape. Everything, from the cascade

to the drinking fountain,

the paths, seats, walls, and steps

are all created from layered slabs of stone.

The shelter, supported on stone, contains typical prairie-style timber detailing (read: superhero massive).

Surrounding it all is the lush planting, which draws from a rich local palette.

Well made, looked after with care and concern, reflecting its location, telling its history, and offering a place for quiet contemplation away from the constant buzz of city life: the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool is a little oasis of calm and delight in the Windy City.


Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool is on Fullerton Parkway between Stockton & Cannon Drives, Chicago.