Heritage Gardens Program
"One of the chief charms of Rockford is to be found in its pleasant gardens, fruitful orchards and the wealth of shrubbery which adorns the gardens of its residents. Scarcely a home can be found, however limited the extent of ground belonging to it, that cannot exhibit its thrifty fruit trees, luxuriant strawberry patches, gay flower beds and tasty groups of shrubbery: until it has been suggested that Rockford may with propriety be christened and known hereafter as the “Floral City." – Rockford City Directory and County Gazetteer 1869
Our 19th Century Historic Gardens
Northern Illinois has a long tradition of attractive landscapes and lush gardens. In an effort to preserve this heritage, Midway Village Museum has recreated historic gardens in the village using 19th century garden designs, structures, ornamentation and heirloom plants. Eight heirloom gardens along with ten acres of restored natural areas reflect various aspects of turn- of- the -century living and provide the visitor with a unique glimpse of plant varieties seldom seen today. Interpreters in authentic period clothing also use these plants for historic cooking demonstrations, craft projects and decorating. It is our hope that, in addition to the buildings and artifacts of the village, the gardens will help transport you to a time when flowers had a language of their own and neighbors lingered on front porches enjoying the fragrance of sweet peas and honeysuckle.
In addition to the cultivated garden areas, Midway Village Museum is actively engaged in prairie restoration. When the first settlers arrived in Northern Illinois, 22 million acres of prairie dominated the landscape and gave Illinois its nickname, the Prairie State. Today only a fraction of the original prairie survives. An ongoing program aimed at restoring this unique biological community began in 2005. The creation of a native wetland on our museum campus earned the Superior Achievement Award from the Illinois Association of Museums in 2006.
Mission of the Heritage Garden Program
The mission of the Heritage Garden Program at Midway Village Museum is to be committed to the continuing research and development of gardens that will more accurately reflect the cultural landscape of the period 1890-1910, allow for interactive opportunities for the visitor and enhance the grounds of the museum.
The Heritage Gardens would not exist without the help of dedicated volunteers. For those interested in helping with the gardens, please see our Volunteer area.
Our special events include:
Irises in Bloom - May 31st, 11 am - 12:30 pm
Experience the perfect pairing for spring: the month of May and the Historic Iris Garden at Midway Village. The elegant mosaic of historic iris blooms and the newness of spring jumpstart our garden season. The beauty is rooted in the vision of local iris enthusiast Dolores Avram, the prime donor of the collection that exceeds 60 different varieties. Join us to revel in pastel shades, ruffles, and brightly accented beards for a romantic look at history. This event is free, with a suggested donation of $5.
Moonlight on the Moonlight - June 14th and 15th from 7:30-9:30 pm
June's full moon is traditionally called the "Strawberry Moon" by Native peoples, and will provide awe and inspiration for those willing to look up. Historic garden experts will lead a tour of all Midway Village gardens, culminating in the special plantings of the Moonlight Garden with refreshments and light hors d'oeuvres. This event is free, however a suggested donation of $15 applies. Please be aware the tours start promptly at 7:30pm.
Wednesday Walkabouts - 9:30 am on Wednesdays, June through September
One look at a Victorian Garden is never enough. Different perennials are blooming week by week. New heights, shapes, and colors invite an array of birds, bees, and butterflies. Ripening vegetables, fall shades of prairie grasses and sweet autumn clematis keep the show going beyond the summer months. Join us on Wednesday mornings for historic garden tours that highlight all the beautiful changes. Tours begin at the Heritage Park Gazebo off the Guilford County Forest Preserve recreational path at 9:30am, and proceed at a leisurely pace around the village wrapping up around an hour later. This event is free, with a suggested donation of $5. Note that if rain occurs, the tour will not proceed that day.
Katie Townsend (pictured), our Heritage Gardens Manager, brings over 35 years of expertise as a naturalist, and leads a team of 25 dedicated garden volunteers.
If you would like to donate to our Heritage Gardens program, you can do so here by selecting Heritage Gardens from the drop down menu.