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New lights create magic in Shakespeare Garden

The Garden Club of Evanston celebrates 100th anniversary with Shakespeare Garden upgrades

  • Shakespeare Garden lit up like scene from ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’
  • Dozens of hidden LEDs make garden magically come alive
  • Upgrades coincide with 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death
  • Shakespeare Garden free and open to the public 

EVANSTON - For the first time in its near-100-year history, the Shakespeare Garden at Northwestern University is visible at night, lit up like a scene from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Drawing upon his theater background, Peter Hugh of Hugh Lighting Design hid dozens of LEDs in the shrubbery and under benches, to mimic the effect from the popular Shakespeare play.

“All of the fixtures were selected to be as nondescript as possible during the day, which allows the natural beauty of the garden to be fully appreciated,” Hugh said. “At night, the idea is for the garden to come alive with this theme as if from nowhere and by magic.”

The Shakespeare Garden is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The Garden Club of Evanston founded it almost a century ago, and generations of club members have maintained the garden ever since.

In 2015, Northwestern University donated $100,000 to The Garden Club of Evanston to celebrate the club’s 100-year anniversary. Club members worked with Northwestern landscape architect Ann Ziegelmaier on plans to update the Shakespeare Garden with a new sprinkler system, new benches, and most notably, the addition of subtle lighting.

Trish Barr said she and other members of the club noticed that, at dusk, it was difficult to see the paths and the flowers.

“There were often students just taking a moment of reflection at that time, which caused us to think that for both aesthetic and safety reasons, some type of non-intrusive lighting would be a good thing,” Barr said.

The updates to the garden coincide with the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. The Garden Club of Evanston President Claudia Lane said the gift from Northwestern helped prepare the Shakespeare Garden for another century of enjoyment.

“Shakespeare himself, original landscape designer Jens Jensen, and the ‘ladies of the club,’ who founded the garden in 1915, would, we feel, love the result as much as we do,” Lane said.

The Shakespeare Garden is free and open to the public. It is located near the Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, just east of Sheridan Road.

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