University of Chicago Library

Guide to the Hyde Park Garden Fair Committee Records 1964-2006

© 2008 University of Chicago Library


Preservation of this collection was supported with a generous gift from the University of Chicago Service League.

Descriptive Summary


Hyde Park Garden Fair Commitee. Records




.75 linear feet (2 boxes)


Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center
University of Chicago Library
1100 East 57th Street
Chicago, Illinois 60637 U.S.A.


The collection contains various administrative, financial, membership, and publicity documents related to the Hyde Park Garden Fair Committee public services projects. Included are records such as member handbooks, minutes, financial reports, newspaper clippings, and event procedures.

Information on Use


Box 1 is open for research, with no restrictions. Box 2 contains budgets and other financial material; access to this material requires permission of the donor.


When quoting material from this collection, the preferred citation is: Hyde Park Garden Fair Committee. Records, [Box #, Folder #], Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library

Historical Note

The Garden Fair has a long history in the neighborhoods of Hyde Park and Kenwood, dating back to May of 1959. The Fair's founders included the respected environmental activist and Hyde Park Herald editor Lee Botts, along with Helga Sinaiko, Sophie Rudin and Mollie Salmon. The Fair began during the period of urban renewal in Hyde Park, when the founders thought that gardening should be promoted to go along with the upgrading of houses and the community in general. As there were no nearby garden centers, the Fair started as a small plant exchange among avid gardeners. Since this policy excluded people with nothing to exchange, the Fair quickly shifted to seeking out plants from far-flung suppliers in the rural and ex-urban distance and bringing them back to the neighborhood. By the early 1970s, the Fair had expanded to provide a wide variety of plants—“perennials for those with access to a patch of ground, but also annuals in containers for those with balconies, herbs for cooks with sunny back porches, and even rare and unusual houseplants for those whose gardening is in a bright apartment window.”

The Garden Fair grew to such proportions that the Committee members had trouble stocking enough material for two days of selling. By 1977 a system of captains for each horticultural department was established because the work of ordering, setting up, pricing and inventorying was so large. Early on, the small profit that the Fair made was turned over to the Hyde-Park Kenwood Community Conference. But in 1971 the Committee began keeping some of the funds raised by the Fair to promote gardening in the neighborhood, whether by education or beautification. Since then, the Committee has planted many flowers throughout Hyde Park, provided classroom teachers grants for horticultural projects, given lectures at the Hyde Park YMCA, the Neighborhood Club and the Coop, and helped organize garden walks. Currently, committee members continue to donate their time, and organize not only the large annual community fairs, but also plant, design, and maintain several neighborhood gardens and sidewalk planters along community streets. The Committee also donates plants to area churches, synagogues, hospitals, schools, and other institutions.

Scope Note

This collection is arranged according to access. Box 1 has no restrictions, while Box 2, containing financial reports and meeting minutes, requires the permission of the donor for access. Within each box, the arrangement is alphabetical. The arrangement and file headings are consistent with the original arrangement of files kept by the Hyde Park Garden Fair Committee. Box 1 contains materials ranging from calendars and fair procedures to publicity articles and plans for beautification projects. The “Garden Fair handbook” folder is particularly useful as it summarizes the structure and activities of the Committee.

Related Resources

Browse finding aids by topic.

Subject Headings


Box 1   Folder 1

Calendars, 1979-2005

Box 1   Folder 2

Fair procedures, 1983-2002

Box 1   Folder 3

Garden Fair correspondence, 1975-1979

Box 1   Folder 4

Garden Fair handbook, 1999

Box 1   Folder 5

Green Deed, certificate, 1998

Box 1   Folder 6

Membership lists, 1975-2004

Box 1   Folder 7

Price lists, 1967-2006

Box 1   Folder 8-9

Publicity, 1966-2005

Box 1   Folder 10-11

Special projects, 1973-1998

Box 1   Folder 12

Volunteers, instructions and assignments, 1996-1998

Box 2   Folder 1

Financial reports, 1967-2005

Box 2   Folder 2

Meeting minutes, 1964-2003

Box 2   Folder 3

Special projects, budgets and financial information, 1975-1999