Visitor Information

Heritage Gardens Program

Heritage Garden"One of the chief charms of Rockford is to be found in its pleasant gardens, fruitful orchards and the wealth of shrubbery which adorns the gardens of its residents. Scarcely a home can be found, however limited the extent of ground belonging to it, that cannot exhibit its thrifty fruit trees, luxuriant strawberry patches, gay flower beds and tasty groups of shrubbery: until it has been suggested that Rockford may with propriety be christened and known hereafter as the “Floral City." – Rockford City Directory and County Gazetteer 1869

Our 19th Century Historic Gardens

Northern Illinois has a long tradition of attractive landscapes and lush gardens. In an effort to preserve this heritage, Midway Village Museum has recreated historic gardens in the village using 19th century garden designs, structures, ornamentation and heirloom plants. Eight heirloom gardens along with ten acres of restored natural areas reflect various aspects of turn- of- the -century living and provide the visitor with a unique glimpse of plant varieties seldom seen today. Interpreters in authentic period clothing also use these plants for historic cooking demonstrations, craft projects and decorating. It is our hope that, in addition to the buildings and artifacts of the village, the gardens will help transport you to a time when flowers had a language of their own and neighbors lingered on front porches enjoying the fragrance of sweet peas and honeysuckle.

In addition to the cultivated garden areas, Midway Village Museum is actively engaged in prairie restoration. When the first settlers arrived in Northern Illinois, 22 million acres of prairie dominated the landscape and gave Illinois its nickname, the Prairie State. Today only a fraction of the original prairie survives. An ongoing program aimed at restoring this unique biological community began in 2005. The creation of a native wetland on our museum campus earned the Superior Achievement Award from the Illinois Association of Museums in 2006.

Mission of the Heritage Garden Program
The mission of the Heritage Garden Program at Midway Village Museum is to be committed to the continuing research and development of gardens that will more accurately reflect the cultural landscape of the period 1890-1910, allow for interactive opportunities for the visitor and enhance the grounds of the museum.

The Heritage Gardens would not exist without the help of dedicated volunteers. For those interested in helping with the gardens, please see our Volunteer area.

Tours of Midway Village Museum’s 10 Heritage Gardens are also available by appointment. Tours are approximately an hour in length. Cost is $8 per adult and $5 students (ages 5 – 17). Call 815-397-9112, ext. 111, or use our convenient online form to request a tour.

For details, contact Laura Furman at 815-397-9112, ext. 108 or laura.furman@midwayvillage.com.

The following lecture programs are offered to community organizations:

  • The Golden Age of Horticulture – This program combines history, horticulture and folklore as it examines major historical events that influenced the evolution of American gardens in the 19th century. Changing garden designs, folklore, and heirloom plants that make great additions to modern gardens will be discussed.
  • Heirlooms for the Garden – Gardeners who don’t want a cookie cutter plan will enjoy this session as we discuss unique and interesting varieties of heirloom vegetables and flowers for the garden. Description, cultivation and history of 10 varieties of vegetables and 10 varieties of flowers will be covered.
  • Heirloom Seed Saving – Seed saving has been part of the gardening tradition for generations of gardeners. This presentation will introduce today’s gardeners to the basics of seed saving, why it’s important and how you get started.
  • The Holly and the Ivy – This program uses 19th century images to examine the history, horticulture and folklore surrounding popular holiday decorations from the landscape and garden. From Christmas trees to mistletoe, we will look at the countries and cultures that gave us some of our most cherished traditions.
  • Immigrant Gardens – When immigrants first arrived in this country, they brought with them many aspects of their culture, which included their gardening traditions. This presentation will examine the horticultural contributions that various groups brought with them when they immigrated to this country and the impact they had on the development of modern American gardens.