The lily pool had originally been built to cultivate tropical water lilies in 1889. In the 1930s, landscape architect Alfred Caldwell was hired by the Works Progress Administration to redesign the pool. He cashed in his life insurance policy and raised additional funds to realize his vision. Later for a time, the pool was used by the Zoo as a waterfowl rookery, and came to be known as The Rookery. From 1998-2002, the Lily Pool underwent a major restoration by the Chicago Park District and the Lincoln Park Conservancy.
The Lily Pool's main gate is on the south side of Fullerton Parkway between Stockton and Cannon Drives (125 W Fullerton Parkway). An accessible entrance and parking space is located at the Lily Pool's east entrance on Cannon Drive. Parking is available at the Lincoln Park Conservatory self-park lot located directly behind the Conservatory; enter on Stockton Drive just south of Fullerton.
The Lily Pool is open seasonally from mid-April to mid-November from 7:30 a.m. to the earlier of dusk or 7:30 p.m. It is maintained by the Chicago Park District and Lincoln Park Conservancy.
Free docent tours are available from May to October from 1-4 p.m. Fridays, Saturday, and Sundays, and from 9 - Noon on Saturdays.