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It has been described as "a vast prairie turned into a personal fantasy land of neoclassical statues, Far Eastern art, and huge European-style gardens surrounding a Georgian-Revival mansion" .Robert Allerton (1873–1964) was heir to a Chicago banking and stockyard fortune created by his father, Samuel Allerton (1828–1914), one of the founders of Chicago's Union Stock Yards.

The university, however, disputed its obligation to pay taxes on the estate, citing itself as a non-profit, tax exempt state institution.

Robert donated the complex to the University of Illinois in 1946.

As of 2007, the park was used by approximately 100,000 visitors per year.

Today, both Robert Allerton Park and Allerton Garden in Hawaii are open to the public.

Allerton also made significant gifts and bequests to the Honolulu Museum of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago.

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