Take a look at this drone video of the Formal Gardens of Allerton Park! A bird’s eye perspective. Enjoy!
Take a look at this drone video of the Formal Gardens of Allerton Park! A bird’s eye perspective. Enjoy!
Last year, this vintage postcard gave unexpected proof that this painting actually exhibited in the Allerton House. A copy of a 1955 letter in the University Archives about Robert Allerton’s request for the loan of the painting gave rise to the research question in the first place. This postcard found on Ebay provided evidence. A catalogue raisonnee of de Chavannes’ works cited by Ryerson Library at the Art Institute of Chicago supplied the missing dates. The Sacred Grove by French painter, Puvis de Chavannes was on loan from the AIC to Allerton House at Robert Allerton Park from May 11, 1955 to October 26, 1962. The Sacred Grove, painted circa 1884, was gifted to the Art Institute in 1922.
Two gloved and goggled Park volunteers on scaffolding armed with buckets and hand brushes recently scrubbed the pedestal of a Charioteer. The mild weather and shady location undoubtedly made this task a pleasant one.
A dedicated force of volunteers serve The Park in many capacities and by many talents. Volunteers help to maintain the gardens and trails, to lead or assist in group tours, and to help with special public events, like the recent Prairie Sky music festival and the evening lighted Wellness Walk that begins in November.
In walking by the couple toiling in their volunteer labors, the history of the Charioteer and these commissioned copies, along with trailing questions, came to mind. Are the two Charioteers at The Park entrance reversed copies? Which arm was originally extended? Informative signage with vintage photograph at the Fu Dog Gazebo provided the answers. The pair of Charioteer appear to have been reversed. Identical to the original Charioteer of Delphi, each Charioteer copy originally had one arm extended as if holding reins. The bronze charioteer (singular) from antiquity is missing his left arm distal from mid-bicep but both arms originally were probably holding reins. When Robert Allerton commissioned the copies, he had the image reversed in the second. In this way, when the pair was installed side to side, each had the outer arm extended. Robert took a certain liberty in interpreting a reversed copy. When Robert disliked the extended outer arms, he asked the artist, Charles Laing, to break off the extended arms to make the figure symmetrical and armless.
Charles Laing, a Scottish stone-cutter who had immigrated to Chicago in the early 1900’s, carved the two charioteers from Indiana limestone. Robert Allerton commissioned a great many sculptural and decorative pieces from Charles Laing. While the Charioteer of Delphi and the Three Graces are copies of famous masterpieces, Laing also chiseled the two Reclining Sphinx. This female headed lion pair preside over the entrance to the lake and meadow beyond and were executed according to John Borie’s measured hand drawings. Similarly, Laing carved the pair of Primitive Men in monumental size from the small 28 inch plaster model made by British artist, Glyn Philpot during his 1913 stay at The Farms. Because these two pair are based upon original art work in Robert’s ownership, could these enlarged sculptural pieces be considered original works? They are, at the least, one of a kind hand-made pieces of decorative art.
But, Why the Charioteer? Why did Robert Allerton commission a pair of Charioteer, instead of something else? None of John Gregg Allerton’s interviews or accounts provide details on Robert’s motivation. Robert, himself, left no written or oral history.
In speculation only, the date of the archeological excavation of the Charioteer in Delphi, Greece, coincided with Robert’s European studies. In 1896, when an fortuitous tremor unearthed the bronze statue during an archeological dig, Robert was ending his studies in Munich, Germany, before heading to the mecca of art study abroad, Paris, France. The uncovering of this Greek artifact sparked the Romantic imagination of many impressionable young men pursuing the requisite European tour or study abroad. The Columbia Exposition in Chicago in 1893 set Robert and his friend, Frederic Bartlett, upon this rite of passage together. Robert would abandon his art aspirations in 1898, but Bartlett made art a successful career.
Perhaps Robert was one of the Romantic young men who sped off to witness the unearthing of this Greek treasure uncovered after over 1000 years buried in Delphi. Was this Charioteer the Bruce (aka Caitlyn) Jenner of his time? What star-power and prestige did the Charioteer command that his athletic victory was commemorated for perpetuity by a large bronze sculptural group of four horses, chariot and rider?
Why did the Charioteer of Delphi resonate with Robert to the point that when he had enough disposable income he indulged not only one hand carved replica of the Greek treasure, but a pair!
John Gregg Allerton pointed out in at least one interview that his father, Robert, liked symmetry and things in pairs.
The visitor to The Park can only speculate on such questions and thoughts that come to mind on a morning’s walk.
Perhaps Robert told himself “I’m going to put a Charioteer on each gate post at the entrance to my estate and every day I’m going to look at them and ….”
Pure speculation only…
Maybe it’s better to just walk at The Park without excessively over-thinking the why’s and what’s……and maybe’s….
The Park is.
We are in The Park.
The Park is within us.
Maybe this is Flashback Friday. Before there was a flatbed trailer for a stage, there were folding chairs for performers and a long cord for amplifier and speakers in the Brick Garden. Those were the days….
Local Hot Iron String Band performing on stage at the recent Prairie Sky Music Festival held August 18-19, 2017 at Robert Allerton Park. Bluegrass legends, Sam Bush and Jerry Douglas, concluded the two day event.
What a successful inaugural Prairie Sky Music Festival! Tremendous effort on behalf of all Park staff and volunteers made for a successful event. Workers scurried throughout the week to set up tents, install new electric, groom the gardens, mow the grass, and set up sound and lights along with a bizillion other details.
Each and All of the performers delivered stellar sets. Sam Bush and Jerry Douglas, individually and collectively, showed the receptive crowd why these two artists are considered the top Bluegrass entertainers today. Their levels of musicianship and showmanship displayed with tight vocals wowed the crowd.
The “dance pit” directly in front of the stage was a multi-generational area. Young and old danced – perhaps for different reasons. Sam Bush has been performing over forty years, originally playing with the New Grass Revival before many of the dancers were born! The older participants may have danced in memory of another time. How nice to see that bluegrass music attracts the young generation. The torch is passed.
The first multiple day music festival at Robert Allerton Park kicks off tomorrow evening, Friday, August 18, 2017. The weather promises cooperation with this inaugural event. Today workers put up the tent to the entrance into the meadow off the new Bulb Garden.
Recently installed electrical service and an improved service entrance offers a new stage placement for the two day event. All seating will slope downhill toward the stage. The Park will be closed to the Public unless ticketed for the event. No outside alcohol is allowed, but beverages and food will be available on site for purchase. If the turnout for Irish Night on August 4th is an indication of public support for music at The Park, Prairie Sky Music Festival attendance may exceed expectations. Associate Director, Derek Peterson has had a vision of this festival and for making Allerton Park a downstate music venue, similar to Ravinia Park in Highland Park, IL. During his eleven years at The Park, he has overseen a renewal and expansion of the monthly summer concerts. And tomorrow, the results of his planning, leadership, work and dedication come to fruition. Don’t miss this musical event in the best local, outdoor music venue. Another reason why we all love Allerton Park.
Last fall a newly designed concrete sidewalk replaced the narrow slab perimeter walk. Three half moon scallops now provide a garden stroll through begonias, cannas, ornamental grasses, Russian sage, Rabbits’ Ear and other summer blooming bulbs or perennials.
Robert Allerton and John Gregg would have approved the design and execution. The garden design is bilaterally balanced. The design isn’t totally fixed since the urns are semi-portable and currently hold cannas which must be dug and shedded over winter.
The leaves and blooms offer texture, scale and color to match the scale of the long garden. Tall urns reflect the opposing height of the groomed arbivitae to the west and leads the eye to the meadow stretching eastward. The plantings have filled in nicely during this first growing season.
Recently three park volunteers carrying buckets with tools and water assembled to tend these garden beds. This female trio arrived at 7:00 am, in spite of temperature already climbing and predicted to exceed 100 degrees with the heat index. They are part of the seemingly invisible force of workers who magically groom the gardens.
Since the Volunteer program was reinstated, the Park volunteer force has been revitalized. The public has benefited from the many programs and events offered through and by the Park, thus cultivating a pool of donors and volunteers to promote Allerton Park in the future.
Thank you, Staff and Volunteers who maintain the gardens that all enjoy. The transformation of the Bulb Garden would delight Robert and John Gregg.
Morning Walks through Allerton Park not only promote good health but promote psychological well-being. Some of this well-being comes from the physiologic effects of exercise, but some arises from the experience of being present in nature. When one takes notice of nature, wonderful things become visible.The play of morning light on spider webs can not be seen from a car passing through the Park. Twin raccoons near the Buck Schroth parking lot a rare treat to stop and enjoy.
Looking eye to eye with this smart-eyed precocious masked mammal, parental instincts kick in. “-What are you two doing running across the road? Where is your mother?”
No answer was given.
Inside Allerton: The Essential Guide to Robert Allerton Park is the book’s full title, but the scope of the book is largely limited to the history of the House and gardens. The author presents well-researched descriptions and historical facts along with an abundance of archived photographs and current photography. The writing flows well in meshing historical details about the evolution of the House design with details about Robert’s personal life.
The author devotes, however, only three pages of the book to events taking place after 1946. Considering Robert Allerton Park was only newly created in October, 1946, in the gifting of the estate to the University of Illinois, these three pages present the history of the Park. The author neglects to report in this brief history that the Allertons first made the offer of a future gifting of the estate to the University in 1941. On July 22, 1941, the University Board of Trustees voted to accept the Allerton’s offer of gift at future date. After WWII ended, the Allerton’s returned to the idea and entered legal negociations to craft the Indentures of their gift.
The author attempts to tie this three page historical summary in a concise package, but the archives present a chaotic carousel of appointed Park directors and a perpetually changing reporting and financial structure. It is a difficult history to research for lack of archival material. Due to this omission of the history of Robert Allerton Park, per se, the subtitle of this book “The Essential Guide to Robert Allerton Park” is a misnomer. This is not a guide to The Park. This book is a Guide to the History of the Allerton House which is now the Conference Center.
The author has gathered a well-gleaned bibliography. The footnoting is extensive. The reader may wonder why the author didn’t include some of the details within the text instead of referencing as a footnote. The footnotes sometimes present conflicting information or posit a new conclusion than the text.
The photography of present day Park is quite excellent. The extensive archival photographs are inclusions that have been missing in all other Allerton accounts. Kudos to David Finnigan for writing such a comprehensive, and historically researched book about the Robert Allerton’s Estate ‘The Farms’. This book is recommended to all Allertonia nuts, like this writer! Each of us have different perspectives on the life of Robert Allerton based upon archival evidence – such as it remains. Robert was a private man, but not reclusive. His ledgers, guest books, personal letters, date book, address book, diaries were either taken to Hawaii, destroyed or otherwise disappeared. We can only interpret Robert’s coming of age as the thirty-something socialite and heir to a fortune. Robert Allerton had great impact upon this County through his gift of Allerton Park. We only know about Robert through the words of others – John Gregg, the press, historical details and locally recorded memoirs. David Finnigan, like others, like this writer, assemble the details and present bits of evidence to build Robert’s life around the transitions that took place in his House – most of which, took place before John Gregg’s entrance into Robert’s life. By 1932, perhaps the couple wanted a blank canvas that ‘the Farms’ could no longer offer. When a travel layover in Hawaii in 1937 presented the opportunity to purchase a new horticultural landscape with an inviting climate, the pair embarked on this new start. Robert left his Midwest farmer role behind – his paintings, his history, his House, land, and collections. These were given away, or auctioned or sold. They divested to comparatively minimal encumbrance.
In spite of the above criticisms, this book is a must purchase. Mr. Finnegan has done a superlative job in organizing and presenting a wealth of historical details. Partnered with the historical photo documentation, a visit and tour of the mansion brings a new perspective to this local treasure.
Thank you, David Finnegan, for sharing the wealth of your research, so we can all become better informed and better appreciate our magical and beloved Allerton Park.