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The Chicago Traveler

Robert Allerton Park

by Matt B on March 11th, 2008

allerton park sun catcher

Words can't always fully describe the beauty and majesty of a scene. Letters and punctuation cannot capture the refreshing feeling that nature can offer. Such is the case with Allerton Park and Retreat Center.

allerton park treeOh sure, I could go on and on about the 1500 acres (6 km2) of meadows, woodlands, gardens, hiking trails, farmsteads, and sculptures located near Monticello, Illinois. I could tell you about how several conferences, retreats, special events, and weddings are held there every year. This public park is used daily for hiking, picnicking, bird-watching, and even old-fashioned refreshing walks.

The land was the first major gift ever given to the University of Illinois. In 1946, Robert Allerton (son and heir of the founder of First National Bank of Chicago) gave this beautiful estate to the school for use as 'an educational and research center, as a forest and wildlife and plant-life reserve, as an example of landscape architecture, and as a public park.' He had also been a benefactor of the Art Institute of Chicago, donating over 6,000 pieces of art to the museum. In fact, many replicas of his favorites were placed in the gardens of his estate. Allerton would definitely approve of the grand artistic beauty the land has maintained to this very day.

allerton park sunken gardenFinally there is a bit of gay history here as well. Robert Allerton lived on these grounds with his lifelong 'friend,' John Gregg. Allerton had been described by the Chicago Tribune as the city's 'most eligible bachelor,' and he never married. The two men left Chicago in the late '30s, just as the city was becoming more intolerant and inhospitable to gays and lesbians. Years later, Allerton adopted Gregg as his son (they were 78 and 52 years old, respectively) because it was the only way, at the time, he could ensure that Gregg would be able to inherit his property after he died.

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Photo credit: (c/o Flickr) bradjward (1, 2), amishah, jpmatth (1, 2, 3, 4), shaggyd (1, 2), Carl M

Allerton Park and Retreat Center: 515 Old Timber Rd (Monticello); 217-333-3287
April ' November: 9:00 a.m. ' 5:00 p.m. daily
December ' March: Fri & Sat 8:30 a.m. ' 4:30 p.m.

Interview with John Gregg Allerton: http://www.uis.edu/archives/memoirs/ALLERTON.pdf

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POSTED IN: Architecture & Attractions, Gay & Lesbian, Sports and Recreation

5 opinions for Robert Allerton Park

  • Bradjward
    Mar 11, 2008 at 11:03 pm

    Thanks for the photo credit! Great post and a great place. I hope to make it back soon.

  • Matt B
    Mar 12, 2008 at 1:53 am

    No worries, it was my pleasure. You took some really great shots.

  • Shaggy
    Mar 17, 2008 at 1:56 am

    Very informative post, it is an awesome place to visit. I will be going back this year sometime, there are far more photo opportunities for me there. The day I was there a huge wedding was taking place and many areas were off limits. Thanks for the photo credit! Glad my photos could be of some use to you:)

  • Seven Wonders of Illinois
    Mar 27, 2008 at 6:03 am

    [...] Central: Allerton Park and Retreat Center. This is one of the few 'old country' estates left in the Midwest and the lush gardens show [...]

  • heather
    Jun 16, 2008 at 9:22 pm

    wow that was like an amazing place i went there 3 days ago and is one of the foo dogs head possed to b down' cause it was… kinna creepy i know ha ha but that place was amazing!!

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