Ten Reasons Allerton Park is Special to Me

Thank you Dick Robrock for writing such a great Rediscover Allerton Blog-

It all began many decades ago when I was first introduced to Allerton Park. It has been a period of discovery as I have learned more of its history, enjoyed more of its venues, and grown in appreciation of its natural splendor. My affection for the place has only soared.

1. Robert Allerton traveled the world each winter and brought back to Piatt County unusual pieces from around the globe – and they are still here, from Carl Milles’ Sun Singer to a set of blue Chinese Fu Dogs.

2. A tremendous variety of habitats – the river, the pond, the meadow, the upland and bottomland forests, the tall grass prairie – is all here, each of sufficient size to support a huge number of species. Indeed, with its biodiversity blitz in 2001, Allerton Park took the prize from Henry Thoreau’s Walden Pond for the most species in one place in the United States.

3. Samuel Allerton was one of the colorful characters in the history of Chicago. Making the family fortune by cornering the hog market in 1863, he founded the First National Bank of Chicago, was a founding member of the Chicago stockyards and many others, played a major role in the 1893 World’s Fair, ran for Chicago mayor, etc. He first came to Piatt County in 1864 to purchase farm ground; this was before he acquired a summer home in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, a winter home in Pasadena, California, and a private railroad car to check on the 500 buildings on the 80,000 acres of farm ground he ultimately purchased.

4. The 44,000 sq. ft. Allerton House, built by Samuel’s son Robert as a young bachelor in 1899-1900, stands proudly over a century later and still today is the site of all kinds of stimulating gatherings.

5. The Allerton Gardens are a treat – 20 acres of formal gardens, carefully accented by pieces of museum-quality sculpture.

6. The park is a place where I have brought many visitors who have stood thrilled and in awe, never expecting to see what they saw.

7. Allerton Park has been an “anchor” in my life – offering its relatively unchanging appearance in a very changing world, as well as its 25 miles of hiking trails.

8. We have enjoyed events in the Music Barn, and outdoor concerts in the Brick Walled Garden and by Gate House, and weddings in the Sunken Garden, or Chrysanthemum Garden, or the Fu Dog Garden. Indeed, many a couple has had their first date at Allerton Park.

9. At the end of WWII, Robert moved to the island of Kauai in Hawaii, after donating his Illinois property. It was in Kauai that Robert created another special place – Allerton Gardens, which interestingly has many of the same artifacts found in Allerton Park. Today, Allerton Gardens is preserved in the National Tropical Botanical Garden, and has been used to film Jurassic Park, Pirates of the Caribbean IV, South Pacific, Donovan’s Reef, and many other films.

10. My wife and I have experienced wonderful friendship and a growing appreciation of nature as volunteers at Allerton. We are surrounded by others who share their wealth of knowledge about the animal and plant life immediately around us, from the fresh water mussels buried in the Sangamon River to the Great Blue Heron rookery perched in the treetops.

Of course, I have many more reasons than ten. What are some of yours?

Dick Robrock

November 7th, 2013 by Allerton | Posted in Rediscover Allerton