Cheney Mansion Waterfall Garden
Oak Park, Illinois
Park District of Oak Park
Wolff Landscape Architecture, Inc. (WLA) prepared in 2009 a Site Master Plan for Cheney Mansion for the Park District of Oak Park (PDOP). One of the potential improvements was restoration of the waterfall garden. The waterfall garden was designed in the 1920s and has some of the characteristics of work by Jens Jensen, who was known to have worked with the architect of Cheney Mansion and done other work in the “mansion district” of Oak Park; however, there is no archival evidence linking Jensen with this feature. Nevertheless, it is an historic feature with a water source, a rill flowing over three small weirs, and a drop (a very small waterfall) into a terminal basin, all built from weathered ledge stone.
In 2009 the area was overgrown, had no running water, and the terminal basin was perceived as a safety hazard. WLA was retained to prepare a Schematic Design, including plan, rendering, and budget, for review by a potential private donor. The design was based on the premise that this is an historic feature, that all materials or “historic fabric” should be retained wherever possible, and that the design should emulate the historic design, or where deviations were necessary to follow in the spirit of that design. The private donor reviewed the design and agreed to fund the restoration, and the PDOP retained WLA to finish the project through construction.
The scope of work includes: removal of the terminal basin stonework, patching, repair, and waterproofing of the existing concrete basin, and reinstallation of the stonework; rebuilding of the source basin, rill, and weirs above the terminal basin; new submersible pump in a new sump in the terminal basin; water recirculation line from pump to source basin; electrical power supply for the pump; installation of a fiberglass grating just below water the terminal basin normal water level, to prevent the possibility of accidental drowning; new landscaping, following as closely as possible planting shown in the historic photographs; and a new bench adjacent to the pool. The project was completed in May 2013 on time and within the $40,000 budget.