Official website for the City of Aurora, Illinois. Mayor Robert J. O'Connor

Sunken Garden Renovation Project

The Official Dedication Ceremony and Opening of the Sunken Garden at Phillips Park was held on Tuesday, June 25th, 2002.

The renovation project, which began in February of 2002, included a handicap accessible multi-level walkway system, irrigation, benches, urns, and plantings that consist of annuals, ornamental grasses, shrubs and topiaries. The addition of a three-tiered fountain, complete with lights, is the center focal point of the garden. The addition of the “Four Seasons” statues, donated by Wally Mundy of W.E. Mundy Landscaping and Garden Center and Mike Schoppe of Schoppe Design Associates, is another new feature. The statues each represent one of the four seasons and are situated in the corners of the garden.

The Sunken Garden was originally designed and developed by Ray C. Moses in the 1930’s. The longtime Director of Aurora’s city parks laid out the design, relying on his vast knowledge of formal gardens passed on to him by his father, George, a former gardener at the estates of English nobility.

The garden was constructed with the labor of park employees and two hundred WPA workers. It was just one aspect of an $189,000 WPA project that started in 1938 to make improvements to the park. The 1938 project included the expansion to the golf course, the addition of the tennis courts, fireplaces, horseshoe pits, a parking lot and sewers, the replacement of zoo exhibits, the remodeling of the tennis clubhouse, the resurfacing of the drives and the demolition of the old pavilion. Records indicate that $11,000 of the project cost was for the construction of a formal flower garden.

Ray Moses designed various new layouts over the years and marked special occasions with elaborate designs that were referred to as carpet bed plantings. In the 1940’s, these layouts included a tribute to the armed services with an army and navy design with an anchor and guns, “Buy War Bonds”, and “Victory: Army - Navy”.

George Moses, Ray’s father, had also served as the Director of Parks, before him. There has been a Moses employed as the Director of Parks, or the equivalent, from 1910 to 1984. Ray’s son, Edwin Moses began working for the department in 1946 and also served as the Director from 1977 through 1984. The Moses family tradition even continues to this day, with Ray’s son Ronald Moses who served for two years as the Alderman for the Third Ward, which encompasses Phillips Park.

Now located on more than 325 acres on Aurora’s southeast side, park attractions include the Visitors Center and Mastodon Gallery, the Phillips Park Golf Course, the Phillips Park Zoo, the Aquatic Center, Mastodon Lake-a 28 acre fishing lake, the Mastodon Trail-a 1 mile multiple use trail, the Mastodon Island exhibits, the waterfall, World War I cannons and numerous veteran related monuments. Among the amenities you’ll find a large state-of-the-art playground, a toddler’s playground, picnic pavilions, sand volleyball courts, tennis courts, horseshoe courts, fishing piers, an ice skating pond and a sledding hill. Zoo exhibits include bald eagles, wolves, foxes, otters, elk, goats, pot-bellied pigs, llamas, reptiles and more. For additional information contact the City of Aurora’s Department of Parks & Recreation.