This blog features posts from members of the Foundation's Research + Archives Team and guest contributors who share their expertise and insight on a variety of subjects related to the Garden of the Phoenix, including Garden updates, research and previews of content that is being collected for the Garden's archives.
In January 1978, the City of Chicago Department of Planning published a project proposal to rebuild the Phoenix Pavilion, tea house, and garden and restore the Wooded Island to its former importance and usefulness in Jackson Park. The project proposal preparations were led by George Cooley, Coordinating Planner for the City of Chicago and the community. This work led to the reestablishment of the 1935 Japanese garden on its original site in 1981. Today, 40 years later, Chicago’s commitment to the site is stronger than ever. The Japanese garden and SKYLANDING by Yoko Ono added in 2016 on the site of the original Phoenix Pavilion comprise the Garden of the Phoenix – the most important site in the nation reflecting over 120 years of U.S.-Japan relations.
The Garden of the Phoenix Digital Experience was developed by the Garden of the Phoenix Foundation and Project 120 Chicago, both civic-pubic private partnerships with the Chicago Park District, and Chicago digital marketing agency envisionit, working closely with historians at the Art Institute of Chicago and Chicago Park District, and others experts.
May 1892 - The Phoenix Pavilion prefabrication begins in Fukagawa, Tokyo
On May 17, 1892, it was widely reported in Japan that construction had begun on the Ho-o-den (Phoenix Pavilion) by the Japan Construction Company in Fukagawa, a “low city” district of Tokyo located on the eastern side of the Sumida River at the mouth of Tokyo Bay.
The Story of the Ranma Panels, Part II: 2005-today
When I first came to The Art Institute of Chicago, I had the chance to view the two ranma panels that we owned. They were in our outside storage facility, and it took the coordination of a group of several staff members made up of conservators, registrars, and art handlers just to go out there and remove them at least partially from their crates to see what state they were in.
On permanent display at The Art Institute of Chicago are four exquisitely carved ranma, wooden architectural transoms, from the Hōōden (Phoenix Pavilion). Recognized as icons of both Chicago history and Japanese art, each panel depicts multi-colored birds with long feathers frolicking gracefully among blossoming paulownia trees that glisten with hints of gold.
Although it looked like one unified building from the outside, the three parts of the Hōōden (Phoenix Pavilion) were carefully conceived to showcase different historical eras of Japanese art. The interior structure and decoration of each room were done to match. This meant that as you moved through the Phoenix Pavilion, you could imagine yourself inside of a courtier’s residence, a shogun’s castle, and a medieval tearoom, all in the course of an afternoon. These were elegant period rooms to be sure, a veritable “theme park” of Japanese history.
July 1935 – The Opening of the Restored Phoenix Pavilion and Japanese Garden
On July 14, 1935, the Chicago Park District and the Japanese Consul at Chicago conducted its final inspection of the restored Phoenix Pavilion and newly constructed Japanese garden. Present were George T. Donohue, General Superintendent of the Chicago Park District, and Kaora Hayashi, acting Consul at Chicago. Also present at the July 15 final inspection, among other invited guests, where Mr. Shoji Osata, concessioner for the new Japanese garden complex, and three young women in kimono: H. Yamaji, Martha Shintani, and Kiyomi Shintani.
An Account of the Phoenix Pavilion Dedication Ceremony
The Japanese Commission was granted permission to build on the Wooded Island in February 1892. During the next fourteen months, the Phoenix Pavilion was designed and constructed in Tokyo, shipped to San Francisco by steamer, and then brought by rail to Jackson Park, Chicago.
“They propose to do the most exquisitely beautiful things…”
On February 3, 1892, the Japanese Commission, led by Seiichi Tejima (1850-1918), met again with the leadership of the World’s Columbian Exposition to present their revised plans to build a pavilion on the Wooded Island to showcase for the first time in America the greatest achievements of Japan’s artistic heritage.