The Hurley Gardens – Wheaton, Illinois - Atlas Obscura

Wheaton, Illinois

The Hurley Gardens

Tucked away amongst townhomes lies a restored, early 20th-century tea house and garden, the only remains of a historic estate. 

At the beginning of the 20th century, a group of wealthy Chicagoans settled in an area of Wheaton, Illinois, dubbed the Chicago Colony. This enclave of homes was designed by renowned local architect Jarvis Hunt and surrounds the present-day Chicago Golf Club. One of these estates belonged to millionaire Edward Hurley.

The child of Irish immigrants, Hurley had humble beginnings and worked various odd jobs before landing on the idea that would ultimately change his life. Mr. Hurley made his fortune when, in 1896, he invented the first piston-type pneumatic drill, the jackhammer’s predecessor. By 1902, at age 38, he was a millionaire. Six years later, he founded the Hurley Machine Co., which manufactured the first self-contained electric washing machine.

The Hurley Gardens—a secluded park in the Adare Farm subdivision of Wheaton—covered 160 acres in its heyday. The two-story colonial home built in 1902 was once the crown jewel of the property. During his time living at this Wheaton estate, Hurley served as president of the First National Bank of Wheaton. From 1915 to 1917, he served on the Federal Trade Commission as its chairman. He was also a confidant of President Woodrow Wilson during World War I; as a political adviser, he maintained the movement of American merchant vessels that supplied the war effort in Europe.

The restored gardens include a loggia, a fountain and reflecting pool, a gazebo, a pergola, and many flower-lined walkways. These elements of the estate were designed from 1910 to 1913 by an Italian landscape architect in the Neoclassical Revival style, an aesthetic which had received great popularity at Chicago’s 1893 Columbian Exposition. 

In 1991, the Hurley Gardens were officially named a Wheaton Historic Site. The estate’s last owners, a community of Franciscan nuns, razed the home in 2009 due to the increasing costs of upkeep. Today, all that remains of the Hurley estate are the gardens, which have been preserved and restored as a park by the city of Wheaton.

 

Know Before You Go

Access the gardens from the end of Creekside Drive, in the Adare Farm subdivision. The park is wheelchair accessible and provides a unique backdrop for wedding and prom photos.

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