The Lincoln Park Commission constructed the Lincoln Park Conservatory in phases between 1890 and 1895, replacing a small greenhouse that dated from the 1870s.Nationally renowned architect Joseph Lyman Silsbee designed the Conservatory in collaboration with architect M.E. Bell. The park includes a second example of the work of each architect. Silsbee designed the Carlson Cottage, a ladies comfort station southeast of CafÃ© Brauer, and Bell designed the Rustic Shelter, located west of the North Pond, near Stockton Drive. During the early nineteenth century developments in iron and glass building technology led to the construction of conservatories in cities throughout Europe and the United States. Later in the century, as people were increasingly concerned about the ill effects of industrialization, they became fascinated with nature and interested in collecting and classifying plants. Large conservatories with display and exhibit rooms gained popularity, and Lincoln Park's small greenhouse no longer seemed sufficient. Architects Silsbee and Bell were commissioned to design a much more substantial building.Rendered in an exotic style, the new structure included palm, fernery, orchid, and show houses. A "paradise under glass," the Conservatory supported "a luxuriant tropical growth, blending the whole into a natural grouping of Nature's loveliest forms."Historically, aquatic plants propagated in tanks in the Conservatory were planted outside, in artificially-heated lily ponds. The exotic plants were so popular that in 1897 the Egyptian government requested seeds from Lincoln Park's water lilies. The rocky-edged ponds once meandered along what is now the fence line of the Lincoln Park Zoo.
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