Shakespeare Garden

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Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl honored the Garden Club of Evanston with a special proclamation on June 8. The following Sunday, the Garden Club celebrated in
the Shakespeare Garden at Northwestern.

According to a history of the garden on the website of the Northwestern Library, in 1915, the Drama League of America requested proposals for activities in 1916 that would commemorate the 300th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare. Landscape architect Jens Jensen, a member of the Drama League began to plan a Shakespeare Garden. “Although the design for the Shakespeare Garden was clearly a departure for Jensen, he had long been interested in the connection between theater and nature, and had written masques that were performed by the Drama League,” according to the history.

When Garden Club member Alice Houston saw the design in 1915, she proposed that the Shakespeare Garden become a project of the club. Botany professor Charles Beech Atwell and NU business manager William A. Dyche met with the club and “recommended the plan to University president Abram W. Harris and to the University’s Board of Trustees.” Northwestern and Garrett Biblical Institute trustees set aside the land for the garden.

Several years of trial-and-error brought the garden to fruition – reminiscent of English gardens with plants hardy enough to survive Midwestern winters. The history states, “In all of the flower beds, care has been taken to use plants that were either included in Shakespeare’s writings, common during his lifetime, or are modern cultivars of these older plants.” Since 1989, the garden has been on the National Register of Historic Places.