Garfield Park Conservatory launches fundraising effort

September 14, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Wednesday, ABC7 got a closer look at the damage to the conservatory's historic glass house.

That damage was heartbreaking. The conservatory is a historic place. It has been around more than a century and is a national landmark. It has a strong emotional connection to a lot of folks who visit regularly and a lot of those people want to help.

"The outpouring from the community has been amazing," said Garfield Park Conservatory's Mary Eysenbach. "Days after this happened, people were contacting us and the alliance, our partner here, and saying, 'We want to have a fundraiser for you. ' "

It has been nearly three months since anyone from the public has gotten to see the conservatory's plants up close, but with a temporary roof now in place, finished just Tuesday night, they are about ready to let people see the damage up close.

The hailstorm of June 30 shattered about 85 percent of the glass over the historic fern room, the showroom and four production rooms.

The glass is still everywhere on the floors in the production rooms. Saving the plants has been the staff's priority.

People come from all over the world to the rare historic building and to see its exhibits. Many loyal fans have done private fundraisers, but now conservatory officials are about to begin a formal campaign of their own. At this point, they say, they are not quite sure what they're going to need.

"There are tens of thousands of panes of glass that need to be replaced here, and we really would like to give a show of support for the restoration efforts," said Eunita Rushing of the Conservatory Alliance.

The fundraising campaign is called "One Pane at a Time," named for the panes of glass that need to be replaced.

The storm cleanup alone has cost about $2 million so far. They have not put the rebuilding project up for bid yet, but it is certain the total cost will be a whole lot more than that. Insurance will cover part of it, but they have a lot of money to pay that they still need to raise.

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