By Ron Colson
DEKALB, Illinois — Jens Jensen had a historic link with Ogle and Lee counties in the early 1900s through his work with the newly-created Lincoln Highway as well as his relationship with sculptor Lorado Taft and Illinois Gov. Frank Lowden.
The historic Egyptian Theatre in DeKalb, Illinois, will be a fitting setting for audiences to view the documentary Jens Jensen: The Living Green, which shows his rise from being a street sweeper in an impoverished, immigrant area in Chicago to becoming the foremost landscaping architect of his time.
Jens Jensen imagined, then designed, beautiful parks in the middle of cities such as Chicago, but his passion was developing community gardens to feed the poor. Jensen understood that to further his community works, he needed income, which he earned by designing the landscaping around mansions, especially in the Midwest, for wealthy clients such as Henry Ford and his son, Edsel.
Through his connection to Edsel Ford, Jensen designed the Ideal Section of the Lincoln Highway near Dyer, Indiana. The Lincoln Highway Association turned to him later to design the thousands of concrete markers the Boy Scouts erected in 1928 to mark the Lincoln Highway’s coast-to-coast route.
The documentary has something for everyone: a slice of Lincoln Highway history, Jensen’s battle with corrupt politicians in Chicago, his projects to grow fresh produce for the poor, the history of parks in Chicago (he also designed Huntley Park in DeKalb), his critical role in preserving the sand dunes along Lake Michigan (which became the Indiana Dunes National Landshore), and his work as the premiere landscape architect to the leading captains of industry of the early 20th century.
The documentary will be presented at 7 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 13, at the Egyptian Theatre, 135 N. Second St., DeKalb, Illinois. The documentary’s filmmaker, Carey Lundin, will lead a discussion following the film. Tickets are $7 for $5 for seniors 65 and older and students, and are available from the Egyptian Theatre at http://egyptiantheatre.org/.
For more information about the award-winning documentary, visit http://www.jensjensenthelivinggreen.org/.
From the Sept. 10-16, 2014, issue