Crystal’s Peace Garden

Contact Information:
Address: 3852 W. Polk Street
Neighborhood/Community Area: North Lawndale
Garden Established: 1997
Protected by NeighborSpace: 2004
Social Media/Website:
Community Partners: 3800 W. Polk Block Club

About the Garden: On west Polk Street in the North Lawndale community, the neat row of stately graystone two-flats is interrupted by an explosion of color that is as beautiful as it is unexpected. This is Crystal’s Peace Garden – a narrow swatch of nature that has grown into a landmark in the community and thriving example of the success that greening groups have had in North Lawndale. Residents here are strongly committed to their neighborhood and determined to protect its limited green space from developers who have shown increasing interest in the rapidly gentrifying area. Residents’ energy and enthusiasm has been channeled into a number of exceptional community gardens and parks by organizations such as NeighborSpace, which was instrumental in securing the land that has been transformed into Crystal’s Peace Garden. In October 2000 – just three years after it was created – Crystal’s Peace Garden won the prestigious Mayor’s Landscape Award. It continues to inspire greening groups both within North Lawndale and from around the Chicago metropolitan area with its array of perennials, annuals and ample vegetable harvest.

The garden is named after Crystal Scott who, when she was a student at nearby Von Steuben Metropolitan High School, motivated one of her teachers and numerous fellow students to help out in the garden during its initial development. As a result, the Garden bears her name and the tradition of young people working to care for it is still going strong. “I am quite pleased that our young people take ownership of the garden,” says community leader Doretha Penn. “They often direct strangers and admirers of the garden to me, and they are very protective.”

In Doretha’s Words: “Working with the community garden continues to be a rewarding experience. We’ve learned to appreciate working together and getting to know each other. Working with NeighborSpace is great – they’re always willing to work with us and they stay in the race to win.”

Best Practice Idea: Doretha says there are several key ingredients – including good old-fashioned hard work – essential to keeping a garden thriving: “Maintaining a community garden takes true love, dedication, commitment and a willingness to go beyond your wildest dreams to succeed. It is hard work and involves long hours – rain or shine.”