William Shakespeare gave the world the language of love with Romeo & Juliet, a tragedy with Hamlet and, at Northwestern, he was the inspiration for a beautiful and memorable garden. The Shakespeare Garden is particularly special for Harold and Carol Crapp, as it is part of their fondest memory: the exchange of their wedding vows.
Created by the Garden Club of Evanston, the Shakespeare Garden showcases more than 50 types of colorful flowers, all mentioned in the Bard’s plays. Noted landscape architect Jens J. Jensen designed the garden in 1915, and the Garden Club of Evanston planted the flowers along the green space. Visitors can find eight flower beds, a sundial and a garden seat designed by Burnham Brothers Inc. Finally, at the end of the long horizontal garden stands a stone memorial with a bronze sculpture of Shakespeare watching over the flowers. In 1988, the space was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Since then it has served as a landscape for engagements and weddings. For Harold and Carol, the true magical moment - their cozy wedding ceremony - happened in August 2013.
“We knew we wanted a small ceremony that was something simple and very organic. This led us to The Shakespeare Garden at Northwestern University,” Carol said.
Their small wedding was the culmination of a four-year journey that began Dec. 20, 2009. Their first connection happened on the dating website Christian Mingle. Harold was the first man that Carol ever sent a “smile” to. From there, a friendship began.
The Shakespeare garden had a small beginning as well. Just as a simple idea brought Harold and Carol together, a small suggestion led to the construction of the garden. When the tercentennial of the Bard’s death came around on April 23, 1916, the Drama League of America encouraged interested groups to construct spaces memorializing the great English writer. Thankfully for Mr. and Mrs. Crapp, Evanston was one of the cities that decided to commemorate Shakespeare by incorporating flowers from his play into the garden. Both Harold and Carol had been through marriage and divorce, but they still searched for someone special to share their lives with. The garden now symbolizes the end of their search.
“I enjoyed encouraging him and listening to his heart,” Carol said. “We spent an increasing amount of our evening time sending instant messages back and forth as well as long emails each day.”
As Carol described it, she and Harold became closer every day. After the first month of text communication, they connected on their first phone call.
“It was when I heard his voice that my heart melted,” Carol said.
The sound of each other’s voices led them to make weekend visits to Canada, where Harold lives, and Chicago, Carol’s hometown. The long-distance relationship presented its struggles and their relationship ended several times. They always found a path back to each other, however, leading them to a romantic evening in Canada on March 29, 2013, the day that Harold proposed.
The garden continues to be an oasis within the sometimes hectic environment of the Northwestern campus. The Garden Club of Evanston, whose members include many Northwestern graduates, still maintains the garden. Open from dawn to dusk, the garden has even become a relaxing place for students to study or have lunch.
As the Shakespeare Garden stays timeless, Harold and Carol’s relationship continues to flourish. Its presence hopefully reminds students and visitors that hope can come from a single vow among flowers whose names were just a series of words in an old English play.