In the early 1970s, glass panes were falling from the Oak Park Conservatory’s roof, a referendum to restore it had failed, and the village began to think a better use for the site would be a new parking lot for Rehm Pool.
Earlier this month, however, the 77-year-old conservatory has landed a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. The decision from the register comes several months after the village board named the building a local landmark.
Frank Lipo, director of the Historical Society of Oak Park and River Forest, said a nomination to put a building on the register first goes through the state. If a petition is unanimously supported, it then goes on to the national register for consideration.
One main reason the register supported the nomination is because of the conservatory’s “social history,” said Lipo, who also wrote a nomination for the conservatory as part of a class project in college.
“There are not many publicly owned conservatories,” he said. Other than the Garfield Park conservatory, there are only a few others “scattered” throughout the Chicagoland area.
Though Oak Park has several historic districts, there are 14 specific sites on the register, including the conservatory.
The conservatory’s new addition is not included in the landmark listing, Lipo said, largely because the register only considers structures that are at least 50 years old.
The conservatory was in severe disrepair, and actually closed due to safety concerns, in the ’70s before the community mounted a successful campaign to save it.