Building Cantigny's Future
by Matt LaFond, Executive Director, Cantigny Park
About a year ago, we announced major revitalization plans for Cantigny, the former home of Robert R. McCormick in Wheaton. We didn’t have a name for our project at the time, only big plans for the estate’s gardens, grounds and museums.
Project New Leaf is still years from completion, but progress came quickly in 2017. Just before Labor Day, the First Division Museum at Cantigny Park reopened after a 10-month renovation. If you’ve had a chance to visit, we hope you agree that our world-class military museum is better than ever—as an educational resource and as a tribute to those who served or serve today.
“Better than ever” aptly describes our goal for Cantigny Park overall. Through Project New Leaf, the McCormick Foundation is investing to ensure a superior guest experience for current and future generations of visitors.
Colonel McCormick, our benefactor, would want nothing less. We honor and share his vision for Cantigny as a community gathering place for learning and recreation.
More progress is on the way. Next spring our new farm-themed playground will open to visitors, followed by a grand reopening of the redesigned Display and Pond Gardens. These areas will be signature attractions at Cantigny for many years to come.
Our landscape design partner for Project New Leaf is Sasaki Associates from Boston, the same firm responsible for the new Chicago Riverwalk.
Changes are in store for Robert R. McCormick’s former residence as well. We envision the mansion becoming much more than a museum. Ideas under review include spaces for meetings and receptions and creating opportunities for civic learning and social engagement. Structural work on McCormick House is ongoing as we preserve one of Chicagoland’s most cherished historic landmarks.
As Project New Leaf enters its second year, we thank our guests for their patience and understanding. The park will stay open throughout 2018, and current plans call for the return of favorite events such as our popular outdoor symphony concerts and LEGO Train Show.
This is truly an exciting time in Cantigny’s history. The staff is energized, and feedback from park visitors is positive. They see and sense that a good thing is getting even better.
With much more work ahead, we hope for a light winter and early spring!