Fall Getaway Spotlight: Allerton Park | Exploring the Midwest Podcast Episode 32

Last Updated on February 9, 2022 by Jody Halsted

This month on the podcast we are preparing for the most colorful time of the year – and the places to visit to make the most of prime ‘leaf peeping’.

Today we are traveling to central Illinois where elegant gardens and extensive woodlands invite you to discover the treasures within before you settle into a very grand accommodation.

Bridget Rose Frerichs is the Associate Director of Advancement at Allerton Park & Retreat Center in Monticello, Illinois.

Allerton_Park_Mansion_Fall_Photo_Credit_ Gary Sebens
The Mansion at Allerton Park

History of Allerton Park

Robert Allerton was born in 1873 into a life of privilege, forged by his father Samuel. They lived in Chicago on Prairie Avenue and rubbed elbows with the Marshall Fields family among other rich and successful families. When Robert was born, his dad, who owned land throughout the midwest, put a plot of land in Platt County, Illinois, in Robert’s name.

Robert went to boarding school and then studied art in Europe, as was common with children from wealthy families at the time. When he returned from Europe, he settled in Platt County. Since it was mostly farmland, he managed the farms and began to build his country estate, modeled after the 17th century Ham House in Surrey, England.

After the house was built, Allerton would work on expanding his gardens, beginning with a vegetable garden and growing it from there. When he traveled, he would bring home sculptures for the garden. Sometimes he would have a space in mind for it and other times he would create a garden space around it. He also had artists commission sculptures to add to the gardens. In time, he created a magnificent estate spanning 1500 acres and containing 14 Formal Gardens. In 1946 Allerton donated the estate to the University of Illinois, which still uses it for research and study, and it is also open to the public.

Death of the Last Centaur

Visiting Allerton

Obviously the gardens are spectacular in spring and summer, but fall is incredibly special at Allerton. “We have 14 miles of hiking trails, so the fall colors are just magnificent,” says Frerichs. “And a lot of people will describe Allerton as peaceful, magical. The fact that it’s here in the middle of the prairie, or what was the prairie, now in the middle of cornfields in the middle of central Illinois, this kind of English-type estate, is really an experience that a lot of us don’t get in central Illinois.”

Explore the 14 Formal Gardens that include artistically designed plantings and over 100 ornaments and sculptures to discover. Join one of the scheduled Friday morning bird hikes from 9-11 a.m. led by managers of the natural areas of the estate.

Get a bite to eat at the Greenhouse Cafe, which offers sandwiches, homemade baked goods, unique salads, classic refreshments and more. It is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday.

Normally they would have concerts and other events scheduled, but with COVID-19, things are looking a bit different. Keep an eye on the website at allerton.illinois.edu for updates on events as restrictions loosen.

The address is 515 Old Timber Road, Monicello, Illinois. The hours are 8 a.m.-Sunset daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Admission is free.

Fu Dog Garden

Read about our time Exploring Allerton and
our stay in The House in the Woods

Accommodations at Allerton

Guests can choose from four different accommodation options for an overnight stay at Allerton.

  • The Mansion — Features 17 guest rooms with antique furnishings, five area common spaces and a basement rec room.
  • The House in the Woods — Built in 1917 to house Allertons’ gardening staff, it is tucked away in an alcove on the property and features 8 guest rooms.
  • The Gate House — Formerly the Head Gardener’s residence, the Gate House has 6 guest rooms, featuring a triple room perfect for families.
  • The Evergreen Lodge — Built by the University of Illinois in the late 1960s, it offers 10 rustic guest rooms.

To book a room, call 217-333-3287. Although weddings book rooms far in advance, you may be able to find a room with a few weeks’ or a month’s notice.

Upstairs in the Allerton Mansion at Allerton Park & Retreat Center. Rooms are spacious and luxurious with terrific views.
This is a room that Robert Allerton expanded to accommodate families. He enjoyed entertaining friends at the estate. The beautiful bench sits on the landing at the top of the stairs.

Other Things to Do Near Allerton Park

Visit Monticello, less than a 10 minute drive from Allerton, and find much to do and see. Tour their downtown historic square and check out these highlights:

Where to Find More Information

Find Allerton on Facebook and Instagram and follow them to stay up-to-date on events and happenings!

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