It really is hard to believe but back in 1970 the park district’s Oak Park Conservatory was considered a derelict relic. Allowed to decay physically over many years, the conservatory at East Avenue and the Eisenhower Expressway was also out of fashion in a park district focused on building pools and sled hills and other forms of active recreation.

That’s when Elsie Jacobsen and her intrepid band of mostly middle-aged female activists began to make the case for the conservatory. They moved the issue from “foregone conclusion” to “Let’s think about this for a second” to “What a treasure we have here,” over the course of a short period. 

And for that effort Jacobsen will have the new Discovery Garden named in her honor when this thoughtful new space on the east end of the conservatory site is dedicated on Sept. 12. It is an altogether fitting choice from the Friends of the Oak Park Conservatory, which gets credit for its prodigious fundraising for this project.

We’d close by noting that Elsie, who died in 2003, was no one-hit wonder. If there was an Oak Park citizen of the past half century who was actively on the right side of more critical issues than Elsie Jacobsen we don’t know who it would be. 

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