‘Garden of the Phoenix’ displays history of US-Japan relations

Japan 2020

CHICAGO (WGN) In the heart of Chicago’s Jackson Park lies a quiet garden with a storied history that goes back nearly 130 years.

“Chicago had burned down in 1871 and it was ashes,” President of the Jackson Park Advisory Council Louise McCurry said.

Following the Great Chicago Fire, the city hosted the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. As a symbol of friendship, Japan gifted the city a garden, now serving as one of the most important sites in the country reflecting American-Japanese relations.

Saira Chambers of the Japanese Arts Foundation said Japan paid some $600,000, an enormous amount of money at the time.

“Japan understood this tremendous opportunity to use art and architecture and culture as a way to establish itself and create its own identity,” Chambers said.

Over the years however, the garden hasn’t always been a tranquil place.

Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Phoenix Pavilion was destroyed by two acts of arson. The Garden was subsequently left nearly forgotten for years until some charred remains showed up in a very unlikely place.

“Then it was a bit of a sleepy place until 1973. There are four remaining panels from that pavilion that were found under the bleachers of Soldier Field. They are now on display at the Art Institute permanently,” Chambers said.

From the ashes of the city and later arson, the Garden of the Phoenix is rising once again, a symbol of the dedication of its caretakers.

“It comes back because there’s a network of Japanese culture that brings it back every time,” Chambers said.

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