Falling water too: The Cheney Mansion grounds will soon have a revived water feature.Courtesy Wolff Landscape Architercture

Thanks to a donation from an Oak Park resident that was one of the first to come through the village’s new Parks Foundation, the waterfall garden that sits in disrepair at Cheney Mansion will be restored in the coming months.

Audrey Kouvel and her late husband, James, moved to Oak Park in 1969 from the East Coast. They built a house across the street from the mansion at 220 N. Euclid Ave.

“From the beginning, we thought we’d love to do something to resurrect the water garden,” said Kouvel, 93, who now lives in Holley Court Terrace.

The 100-year-old garden had never been restored, and Kouvel said after looking at old pictures, “we wanted to bring it back to life.”

Kouvel said they wanted to make the donation sooner, but there were concerns regarding the restoration that stalled the discussion.

But now, Kouvel is set to give between $45,000 and $55,000, depending on how much the restoration and plantings cost, said Robin Dunn, chair of the Gardens of Cheney Mansion committee. After receiving a donation of start-up money, Dunn said this is the group’s first donation for an actual project.

Ted Wolff, of Wolff Landscape Architecture, said his architects hope to have the restoration done this year. They will fix the mechanics so that the pump re-circulates water, restore the crumbling masonry and improve the landscaping by removing overgrown plants and putting in some new ones. They hope to reuse as much of the existing stonework as possible so it doesn’t look like work has been done, Wolff said.

Dunn added that once the bushes are cut back, “I think people will realize how big it actually is.” She said work is scheduled to begin in September and hopefully be done by November.

And Kouvel said being able to help out was “very touching” for her.

“Now that it seems to be going ahead, I’m very happy about that,” Kouvel said. “I am, and I know my husband would be.”


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