Outdoor Museum of Trees
Reminiscent of Joni Mitchell’s lyrics:
And put them in a tree museum
And they charged all the people
A dollar and a half to see ’em
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
‘Till it’s gone
They paved paradise
And they put up a parking lot
Guess what. . . there really is a Tree Museum! It’s called Morton Arboretum. And, it costs 10 times more than “a dollar and a half just to see ’em“! The good news is – it’s worth it!
Morton Family Motto: “Plant Trees”
Unlike Joni’s 1960’s concern that industry was paving over our trees, J. Sterling Morton’s motivation was his move to the barren plains of Nebraska in 1854. He and his wife wanted to beautify the new territory and attract settlers. On various levels, from newspaper editor to politician, he encouraged planting trees. It is because of J. Sterling Morton’s passion and industry that we recognize Arbor Day today.
Morton Salt Company
Enter Joy Morton, eldest son of J. Sterling & Caroline Morton. An industrious Chicagoan, and with $10,000.00 in savings, he purchased a small interest in a Chicago firm that acted as agent for the Michigan Salt Association. He just kept investing in that company, until he controlled it, then buying out his competition… Joy Morton gained tremendous wealth. (That’s my abbreviated version of his story.)
Well, carrying on the family tradition & motto, he envisioned a great outdoor museum of trees, and in 1922 he dedicated 735 acres of parkland with the purpose: to encourage the planting and conservation of trees and other plants for a greener, healthier, and more beautiful world. (Today the arboretum is 1700 acres.)
OK, that’s it for the history lesson. Fast forward to me. I love the Morton Arboretum. Located just across the street from Castle Black, we get to explore their shady compound easily and often. Today it offers much more than the grace and beauty of trees. There are rotating art installations,
classes, bike trails and public events. But my favorite are the Theater Hikes. Similar to “plays in the park”, Theater Hikes are somewhat unique in that actors and guests walk from grassy stage to grassy stage. Each transitional hike leading us to the next act of the play. A few we’ve seen are:
I’m not certain, but I think Morton Arboretum may be the only place that incorporates plays with picnics, hikes and multiple grassy stages. These opportunities lie in the town of Lisle, Illinois, just 25 miles west of Chicago. If you have the time to expand any Chicago visit, I highly recommend a trip to this Arboretum. It won’t matter what play they are presenting, it will be worth the trip.