A Garden Grows in Chicago


1942 Victory Garden on Peterson Avenue

It’s been a long time since anyone has seen a community garden on the corner of Peterson and Campbell avenues. Nearly seventy years, in fact.

For four growing seasons, 1942 to 1945, this corner was part of a WWII victory garden. Descendants of horticulturalist Pehr S. Peterson owned the lot and donated use of it to the community.

This summer, thanks to local resident and avid gardener LaManda Joy, community gardening returns to a section of the same parcel of land. In just a few months, LaManda came up with the idea of the Peterson Garden Project, got the necessary permissions, spread the word, organized fundraisers and signed up volunteers.

LaManda is modeling the project on the original concept of victory gardens in more ways than one. Education and support for novice gardeners will be provided, as it was during the forties. The next benefit/information meeting is scheduled for Thursday, May 20th, at the Dank-House in Lincoln Square.


One hundred and forty individual organic garden plots are available, each providing 24 square feet of planting space. As of May 2, city gardeners have grabbed up 30 of the plots. Costs include $45 per plot, plus the cost of raised beds, organic soil and other gardening supplies. Participants commit to tending their gardens 2-3 times of week and adhering to organic gardening principles. For more details, check the Peterson Garden Project website.


LaManda Joy, founder of the Peterson Garden Project

This story has more than one hero. The garden wouldn’t exist without the vision, expertise and efforts of LaManda Joy; the enthusiastic support of 40th Ward Alderman Pat O’Connor;  the generosity of the current owners of the land, Asian Human Services; the commitment of the future site gardeners; and sponsors’ donations. But what caught my attention was the connection to Pehr Peterson.

Although I grew up in house built on land once owned by Pehr Peterson, a half-block south of Peterson Avenue, on a street facing what is now called Peterson Park and I attended Peterson Elementary School, I’m only now discovering the extent of this Swedish immigrant’s legacy. The Peterson Garden Project, located on former Peterson-owned property, is a fitting tribute to the gardener who planted so much in his adopted city.

Photo credits: Thanks to LaManda Joy for use of the photos of the Peterson Garden Project site. Thanks to Jennifer Stix for the the photograph of LaManda Joy.

Related posts: Growing Community in Chicago

Resources: Check out the site LaManda created for the Peterson Garden Project to find out how to participate and support the garden. She also blogs about gardening and related topics at The Yarden. Follow the project on Facebook and  Twitter.

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4 Responses to A Garden Grows in Chicago

  1. Judith van Praag May 3, 2010 at 11:58 am #

    Frances, Wonderful to read about not just LaManda Joy (great name for someone who brings joy to the neighborhood) but the history of Victory Gardens in Chicago. The pictures are great too, great to see how it was 65 years ago, and that there’s a revival. In Seattle community gardens are known as P-Patches, organized through the City’s Parks & Recreation Department. Until I got a house with a yard I was an avid P-Patcher and I miss the community garden of my old neighborhood!

  2. Jennifer May 3, 2010 at 8:56 pm #

    This is such a great idea – I hope it has the success that it deserves. I’m still marveling at the fact that LaManda does this in her “spare time”!!!!

  3. frances728 May 3, 2010 at 9:18 pm #

    Yes, I’ve been revisiting my “time management” strategies all day. I’m looking forward to our next exploration, which of course will be documented here. By then, there should be plants growing in the raised beds at the Peterson Garden Project.

  4. Jerry Pritikin August 4, 2011 at 2:14 pm #

    During the WWll years, many Victory Gardens were planted in backyards, and on vacant lots throughout the city and nearby parks. The simming pool at River Park was a site of a large community Victory Garden.

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