Sunken Garden Timeline


Sunken Garden Construction project began by the Works Project Administration (WPA).


A Rose Garden existed.
  • Ray Moses laid out the design of garden. His father was a formally trained gardener at English estates.
  • Beacon article dated September 11, 1938 titled "Start 200 Men Tomorrow On Park Project," explained how the WPA improvement project at Phillips Park was going to spend the $189,000 allotted for the project by both the government and the city. In a statement issued by Mayor Harry B. Warner, he indicated that approximately $11,000 would be used to construct a formal flower garden.
  • A photo from near the end of construction, dated November 11th, 1939, is on file.
  • Beacon article dated November 12, 1939 noted that Ray Moses, the head of the Aurora Park Department named a new variety of chrysanthemum "Pearl Warner," after Mayor Harry B. Warner's wife. It was a deep yellow in color, although the parent plant was a pale pink.
  • Beacon article dated November 14, 1939 noted 5,000 chrysanthemums, of 157 varieties, were on display for Aurora's Chrysanthemum show that would run through November 26th. Under the direction of Ray Moses, 50 youth employed by the National Youth Administration aided in the preparations for several months, including remodeling of the old building (birdhouse) used for the flower show. Beacon photo dated November 19, 1939 shows Ray Moses and National Youth Administration worker Elizabeth King at the "mum" show.
  • On the back of a photo marked 1940s, there is a handwritten note describing the Army/Navy carpet bed design (1942), noting it is where the tennis courts were located.
  • Beacon article dated May 11, 1941 stated the lights were installed at garden and turned on.
  • Beacon article dated May 11, 1941 noted that 12,000 tulips, of 25 different varieties, were in full bloom at Sunken Garden.
  • Beacon article dated April 14, 1942 indicated that the City Council approved the distribution of more than 20,000 tomato and cabbage plants, at no charge, to those who could not afford them, through the schools, at the urging of Ray Moses, Park Custodian.
  • Beacon article dated July 16, 1942 has Ray Moses, foreman of parks, inviting the inspection by the local citizenry of the formal gardens at Phillips Park and the gardens at Garfield Park. Both have military themes, with gardens at Garfield possessing a beautiful flag, as well as another plot with military symbols.
  • Beacon article dated September 2, 1942 noted the Sunken Garden (with lily pond) was illuminated nightly by floodlights to showcase the Army-Navy design with anchors and guns.


Ken Olsen of the Aurora American Legion Band informed staff that they used to perform in the garden and in 1946 electric was installed there. Site of yearly displays of flower carpet beds, many times designed to commemorate special events. Designs on file: Buy War Bonds (1940s) slides on file, Boy Scouts 1910 to 1960, Navy Waves 1942 to1967, Victory: Army - Navy (1942), Aurora 150 Years (1987) created by Wally Mundy of Mundy Landscaping. The flame was turned off in the 70s due to the energy crisis.


The pond was filled in, according to park staff. The dimensions were estimated to be 20 by 30 feet and 3 feet deep.


The Friends of Phillips Park (FOPP) Garden and Planting Committee formed plans for redevelopment of Sunken Garden. A FOPP brochure indicates they spent $650 to purchase 5,000 tulip bulbs, which volunteers planted the prior fall.


Veterans were invited to attend a Re-dedication Ceremony, where the name plaques had been replaced on the WWII Monument honoring the "Aurora Township Heroes 1941 to 1945" that had earlier been stolen.


A Remembrance Program was held at Sunken Garden on June 6, 1994 in recognition of the 50th Anniversary of D-Day.


Millennium bed reading "2000" was planted by Mundy Design and funded by FOPP.


The Official Dedication Ceremony and Opening of the Sunken Garden at Phillips Park was held on Tuesday, June 25th at 4 p.m. The renovation project, which began that past February, included a handicap accessible multi-level walkway system, irrigation, benches, urns, and plantings consisting of annuals, ornamental grasses, shrubs and topiaries. The addition of a 3-tiered fountain, complete with lights, was the center focal point of the garden.

The addition of the "Four Seasons" statues, donated by Wally Mundy of WE. Mundy Landscaping and Garden Center and Mike Schoppe of Schoppe Design Associates, was another new feature. The statues each represent 1 of the 4 seasons and are situated in the corners of the garden. An entry gate was also added, allowing patrons access from the garden to the zoo. The new Hostas Garden lines the common area, with plants donated by individuals and organizations from throughout the community. The former Superintendent Edwin Moses was recognized by Mayor Stover, with a bronze plaque, located in the garden, that was unveiled during the 2002 opening ceremony, noting Ed's years of dedication to the garden.

Mundy Landscaping was awarded the Grand Award for Exterior Commercial Renovation, sponsored by the Associated Landscape Contractors of America.


In preparation for the next spring, 12,000 tulip bulbs were planted.