Once a country retreat, Farnsworth House to host Family Day

By Cathy Janek For Chronicle Media

The Farnsworth House was designed by Mies van der Rohe and completed in 1951.  It is an excellent example of the Modern post-war architectural movement. (Photo courtesy of Farnsworth House)

The area’s littlest aspiring artists will have a chance to peruse the iconic Farnsworth House in Plano on a very special day this month made just for them.

The Farnsworth House can be a mecca for architecture enthusiasts from around the globe, but as part of its Family Fun Day held on Saturday, Oct. 19, the historic glass box house will be opening its doors and adjacent property for families to tour the house and grounds and participate in hands-on creative STEAM activities.

The Farnsworth House is partnering with local organizations and businesses including the Kendall County Outdoor Education, Open Space Art Gallery & Studios, Fox Valley Rendering, Friends of the Fox River, and Yorkville Chamber Green Connect for this event.

Jennifer Downing, Farnsworth House’s marketing and events coordinator, said children will have the opportunity to learn about birds on the property, create a collage made from recycled materials, design a perspective project, and participate in a scavenger hunt.

There also will be information booths about composting and the importance of the property’s adjacent Fox River and its ecology, she added.

Visitors will have the opportunity to wander around the property’s 55.5 acres.

“Local Boy Scouts will be on hand tending the fire and helping people build their own smores,” Downing added.

Limited concessions will be on hand, she said, therefore “people are also welcome to picnic.”

Farnsworth House sits on more than 55 acres in Plano. (Photo courtesy of Farnsworth House)

As the mother of four children herself, Downing said bringing kids out on this special day is a “good opportunity for families to bring their kids out and take a look at the house. The event is just enough for kids to see what is going on in the house and learn about why it is so unusual.”

Downing added, “Maybe I am a wishful dreamer, but I imagine a little boy or girl coming out and being enamored by the house and 16 years later, they are studying architecture.  I hope it inspires kids.”

Farnsworth House’s own Executive Director Scott Mehaffey, who knew he wanted to be an architect by the time he was 7 years old, said, “For those kids who are very interested in art, a visit to the house can be a very memorable experience” especially for “budding young architects who are naturally curious about design.  It is a great place to encourage that interest.”

Completed in 1951, the Farnsworth House was designed by Mies van der Rohe and is considered an important part of the Modern architecture movement in the United States.

Dr. Edith Farnsworth, a leading kidney research physician at what is now known as Northwestern Hospital, lived in the Gold Coast area of downtown Chicago and wanted a place to which she could escape the city, Mehaffey said

A trip to the open, Kendall County countryside to visit a friend led Farnsworth to the property, which was owned by Colonel Robert R. McCormick, the publisher of the Chicago Tribune, he added.

Looking out onto the picturesque grounds from the front of the Farnsworth House in Plano. Photo courtesy of Farnsworth House)

Even though the property was built as a country escape, its appearance is utterly modern with its floor to ceiling windows, steel beams, and minimalist design.

The property has gone through two restorations — one to restore it to its original appearance and a second following a flood that damaged the interior.

In 2003, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Chicago leaders came together to purchase the home.

“It has been open to the public for 15 years,” Mehaffey said.

Today, the Farnsworth House has more than 10,000 visitors each year.

The home certainly “sparks a lot of interesting conversations for children to have with their parents,” he added.

If You Go:

Farnsworth Family Day

10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Saturday, Oct. 19

Farnsworth House

14520 River Road, Plano.

Cost: $20 per family for up to six family members.

Visitors are encouraged to preregister.

More information available at www.FarnsworthHouse.org and https://farnsworthhouse.org/farnsworth-family-day/