With the opening of its Chicago Botanic Garden in 1972, the Chicago Horticultural Society established a home for plant collections, education, and research. Today, the Garden is a 385-acre living museum whose guiding principles and philosophy are encapsulated in its mission: We cultivate the power of plants to sustain and enrich life. Built on nine islands, the Garden houses a collection of more than 2.6 million plants in 27 specialty gardens, and four natural areas—woodlands, wetlands, lakes, and prairies. Free to the public and open 365 days a year, the Garden annually welcomes more than 1 million visitors, serves 50,000 member households, and engages more than 130,000 participants in diverse education and community programs. Interpretive offerings celebrate plants, nature, and the arts and sciences and include tours, exhibitions, and outdoor concerts. The Garden’s science program responds to global environmental threats—such as climate change and urbanization—through research, practice, training, education, and public outreach. The Garden is an example of a successful public-private partnership. It is owned by the Forest Preserve District of Cook County and operated by the Chicago Horticultural Society.

Founded in 1890 to help beautify Chicago for the World’s Columbian Exhibition, the Chicago Horticultural Society began assembling a library collection of horticulture books and catalogs in its earliest years. Today the Lenhardt Library continues this legacy by collecting, organizing, preserving, and widely sharing subject specific materials. In recent years, the Library has focused on developing a Rare Book Collection of national prominence that strengthens its service to researchers, scholars, educators, students of all ages, visitors, and the online public.

Housed within the Lenhardt Library, the Archives of the Chicago Horticultural Society holds approximately 250 linear feet of documents pertaining to the history of the Society and the Chicago Botanic Garden. Records include meeting minutes, reports, garden maps, news clippings, photographs, correspondence, administrative files and more. Records span the years 1890-1904 and 1943-present.

A LibGuide and Finding Aid completed in December 2016 provides interpretive information to aid users in their discovery and research queries.



Viewing of archival materials is by appointment only. Please contact the library before you visit.

Library@chicagobotanic.org or 847-835-8201