Over half way through 2009 tour season

I had a huge thrill this past week when I got to shake the hand of Pinky Lucas.  Pinky and his brother Johnny owned Lucas Brothers Construction in the early half of last century.  They were hired by Myron Goldsmith, Mies’ project manager, to pour the concrete footings at the Farnsworth House.  Scott Lucas, resident Sodfather, emergency cashier and occasional tour guide is Johnny’s son and Pinky’s nephew (you may recognize Scott as my photographic yardstick).  Johnny has been gone for a while now, but at 92 Pinky has made his way back into the area and stopped by to pay us a visit.  It’s a thrill for us all to meet him, after all, he started this project!

We are officially past the halfway point in our 2009 tour season.  I’ve met so many wonderful and fascinating people this year, too many to mention, but now I am targeting a few.  We expect this year to result in about 9000 visitors, more than 3000 so far, but fall is always really busy.  We have been blessed by the company of more than 700 visitors representing 36 countries and more than 2300 from 42 of the 50 US States.  I am willing to provide free access to the first visitor to grace our doorstep from the missing 8 states.  It could be your lucky day if you are the first to arrive from:

Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Vermont

We welcomed some local volunteers last Monday and we made a huge impact on clearing out some overgrown shrubbery that had blocked our view to the river.  I want to thank the wonderful folks from Jacob’s Well who spent about 8 hours chopping and hauling 10 dump truck loads of invasive plants from the rivers edge. Deena and Scott were wonderful to come in on their only day off as well. We have a lot of work left to do, but there is some obvious benefit to doing it. I took this really stunning photo of the Fox River Bridge (notice the abandoned piers of the old bridge beneath it).  This is a view I had never seen before because access to the river has been blocked by thick shrubs. Our visitors can now understand a bit better why we call the route to the house a river path.

Hope you can come visit soon.

Whitney French

Farnsworth House Site Director

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Tuesday, August 11th, 2009 Uncategorized No Comments

GA Details Book

I am deeply touched and always grateful for every dime and dollar dropped into our donation jar, and was tremendously moved by the generous show of support by many donors just after the flood.

One truly memorable gift came from our friends at ADA Edita in Tokyo, the publishers of GA Details #1. This popular Global Architectural Details edition focuses on the Farnsworth House and contains dimensioned floor plans, elevations, sections and detailed drawings of all elements of the house. For anyone curious about the technical and functional solutions of this master of architecture, this book serves as a treasured possession. Yukio Futagawa, photographer and publisher of the GA Details series, surprised us shortly after the flood with a gift of 72 copies of the GA Details #1 book. He had heard about the flood and having visited to photograph the house on numerous occasions, was concerned for its well being. It has taken us a little time to get our online shop in order, but we are now ready to make this generous donation available to admirers of the Farnsworth House. In order to raise additional funds, we are offering a special price on the first 72 books purchased on line. Normally retailing for $40, the next 72 books will be sold at a reduced price of $30.

The new online shop contains many other products and we hope to keep expanding our selection in the future. We are a great resource for books on Mies van der Rohe and many other modern masters. We pride ourselves on finding well designed, high quality pieces to share with our rather particular audience. All proceeds from the sale of products in our gift shop serve to support our mission.

I hope you’ll take a moment to take a look at our merchandise and if you’ve always wanted your own copy of GA Details, or know a fan of the Farnsworth House who might be a worthy recipient, there couldn’t be a better time to secure one.

Whitney French

Farnsworth House Site Director

www.FarnsworthHouse.org

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009 Uncategorized No Comments

Goodbye to a Piece of the Farnsworth House

Mother Nature took an iconic piece of the site on Monday when we lost the tree limb that hung over the deck.  A long time connection of the house to the Nature that surrounds it, this limb was the only one that reached out towards the house and shaded the entrance for visitors.  If you look at older photos, you will recognize it.

Earlier in the year the cable that secured its joint was released when the rotting branch could no longer hold the eye hook. The branch has been slowly dropping over the past two weeks and we had plans to call the arborists to see if it could be re-cabled this week. When we arrived at the house Tuesday it was laying on the deck.  No damage appears to have occurred to the House. We have contacted our arborists to have the remainder of the branch removed to protect our visitors.

The weather is beautiful here!  And the clear view to the house, which I expected to be sad and empty, was actually quite lovely with its new clean look.

Make your plans now and come visit!

Whitney French

Farnsworth House Site Director

www.FarnsworthHouse.org

Thursday, July 16th, 2009 Uncategorized No Comments

Fleas van der Rohe

I promised a few new friends that I would blog about an unexpected guest on our tour, so they would know his status.  I was in the pleasant company of a couple of architects from London recently and one of them spotted a baby squirrel in the middle of the path. It was cold and rainy and I was compelled to pick him up and bring him with us on the tour. My guests, with absolute respect, decided on the name Fleas van der Rohe. I am happy to report that he is doing well and has been my constant companion for two days. I am confident that tomorrow morning, when I leave him at the base of the tree, mom or dad will come retrieve him. 

 

 

He is quiet in my care and eating well, but when we leave him on the path he makes quite a racket, calling for someone to come get him.  Tomorrow, early in the morning, I’m certain that he will be swept into the nest by his parents.

 

It is an indication of all the new that spring can bring to the Farnsworth House. The Daffodils are beginning to bloom with the Virginia Blue Bells not far behind. The monotone of winter, though lovely in its own right, gives way to the vibrant colors of spring. The fish are jumping, the wildlife is abundant, the trees are in bud and the deer will be nudging their young out of the woods soon. I love this time of year. Every day brings abundance, change and growth. There is no better place to see it all than the interior of the Farnsworth House.

 

 

 

We are open for tours and glad to have visitors again.  You should think about a visit, but make a reservation first! We’re filling up!

 

Whitney French

Farnsworth House Site Director

www.FarnsworthHouse.org 

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009 Uncategorized 1 Comment

Tour Season Off to a Good Start!

Finally, spring is springing and the guests are returning, the wildlife is emerging from a long winter’s rest and the tulips are beginning to bloom. It is really wonderful to be open for tours again at the Farnsworth House. We have hosted a charming flock of visitors during our first official week of opening. 150 people from around the world blessed us with their presence in week one of the 2009 season. I was happy to conduct the majority of the tours personally as our new volunteer tour guides become fully trained. Mother Nature was cooperative and the weather has been getting better everyday. 

 

Our guests this past week included IIT exchange students from Spain (Barcelona and Madrid) and Dubai, UIC exchange students from the University of Delft in Holland, visitors from Japan, Canada, Australia, Sweden, Brazil and England. An enthusiastic group of Architecture students from the University of Cincinnati in Ohio and their captivated professors made their first journey here. We engaged in great debate over construction techniques and details. It is amazing how much I continue to learn from this fascinating building and the throngs of enthusiasts who spend time with me here.

 

I hope everyone who is following this blog has an opportunity to visit us this year. We continue to receive comments from our guests that our hospitality and the house have exceeded their expectations. That makes all of our hard work quite rewarding.

 

Hope to see you soon!

 

Whitney French

Farnsworth House Site Director

www.FarnsworthHouse.org

Monday, April 13th, 2009 Uncategorized No Comments

Volunteers Needed as Tour Guides

Last year we started a volunteer docent program at the Farnsworth House.  We trained about 15 people at the beginning of the 2008 season and most of them came out several times to help us educate our visitors on the relevance of our architectural icon.  It’s a pretty sweet gig if you are a fan.  Beautiful days spent outside on a peaceful piece of property along the river mingling with fascinating people from around the world and sharing this amazing house with them.  Most of last year’s docents are returning this year and will be joined by a new batch of 2009 trainees.  We have received about 11 new applications this year and training began last Saturday.  It was a great group and I am really excited to have them participating.  They seem excited as well.  More slots are available for tour guides so if you have an interest and are available, visit our volunteer page and submit an application for the tour guide program.

 

 

Other volunteer opportunities exist as well, including some landscape cleanup.  We suffered high water again last week.  Nothing high enough to get in the house but it seems we will be buried in mud forever.  I can’t even envision being ready for opening day (April 1st), but somehow we will manage.  It will be great to be open for tours again.  It has been an extremely busy winter, but a little lonely too.  If you can’t volunteer you should plan on a visit this season.  We would love to see you!

 

Whitney French

Farnsworth House Site Director

www.FarnsworthHouse.org

Friday, March 13th, 2009 Uncategorized No Comments

Clipping Clones

We have been blessed by the incredible knowledge and generosity of our partners at the Morton Arboretum and today they sent Peter and David, two most pleasant gentlemen, to take clippings from our majestic Black Sugar Maple. We all recognize that the tree has led a full, productive life and its critical contribution to the architecture can not be overstated, but it will not live forever and so we are seeking ways to enjoy it long into the future. To that end, in the fall we collected seeds and brought them to Dr. Donnelley at the Morton Arboretum. He had staff put them in the chiller and soon they will be propagated in the green house.

 

The health of the tree causes some concern and we fear the success rate for the seed propagation will be limited, but we will wait and remain hopeful. Our next step was to invite Kris Bachtell to examine the tree’s health. He provided some valued advice and made the arrangements for today’s cloning activity. 

 

 

The clippings that we took today will be spliced on to two year old Black Sugar Maple stock already in the green house at the arboretum. If we are successful, we will be growing genetic duplicates of our beloved tree, at least above the root system. Finally, this spring, we will fertilize and pamper the tree in the hopes that we can nurture it through another few years.

 

The skill and passion of the staff at the Morton Arboretum is unequaled and I am so grateful that they are sharing their expertise with us. I brought Peter and David into the house when we were done with the work, to warm up on the toasty travertine floor and to share the architecture with them with a similar passion.  No other architecture is more tied to and respectful of the landscape and both men seemed delighted by the experience.

 

Whitney French

Farnsworth House Site Director

www.FarnsworthHouse.org

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009 Uncategorized No Comments

A Visit from Judson University Students

I had forgotten how lively it can be here until yesterday, when we made special arrangements for a group of second year architecture students from Judson University to visit. They were curious and engaged, some were actually difficult to pry off the site after their two-and-a-half-hour stay. Despite the snow and cold weather they spent a great deal of time outside the house taking photos. I caught one student writing I heart Farnsworth in the snow. It’s always great to have visitors who remind us why we work so hard to protect and preserve this architecture. This group will be challenged with a daunting task upon their return to class today. They must design an addition for the Farnsworth House. I will be curious to attend their annual presentation to see the ideas that emerged.

 

 

We are finalizing a promotion to encourage the student population to visit this year.  If you are a student or a professor, encourage the trip. We hosted about 30 different university groups last year and we think, Chicago being the great architectural mecca that it is, we should be sharing it with many more. The majority of the visitors here leave with a similar exclamation, that the house must be seen to be appreciated.

 

Whitney French

Farnsworth House Site Director

www.FarnsworthHouse.org

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009 Uncategorized No Comments

January 15 Lecture

For those of you living in Chicago and having plans to be in Chicago on Thursday, January 15, I will be speaking at the Chicago Cultural Center in the Claudia Cassidy Theater on the second floor from 12:15 to 1 p.m. as part of Landmarks Illinois monthly Snapshots Lecture Series. This lecture is free and open to the public, so please make plans to join us.

The title of my talk is “Farnsworth House: Rising Water & Preservation.” Very timely given the rash of flooding we’ve experienced this past year. The bulk of my talk will be an overview of the history of floods at the house, a detailed timeline of events during the 2008 flood, and what we’re doing to tackle the ongoing issue of flood mitigation.

I hope to see you at the Chicago Cultural Center tomorrow!

Whitney French

Farnsworth House Site Director

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009 Uncategorized No Comments

A Near Flood Over the Holiday

We weathered a near miss over the holiday weekend. On Friday we had about 12 inches of snow on the frozen ground. The temperature rose quickly to near 40 causing the snow to quickly melt. If that weren’t enough to cause the river to rise, we also received 2 to 3 inches of rain Friday night and all day Saturday with temperatures nearing 60. Flood warnings were sent throughout our area.

To be safe we completely protected the collections in the house in just over 6o minutes with very few volunteers. Staff member Deena, her husband Dean, my daughter Cami, my husband Russ and Dave, a friend of the family, all went down Friday morning and raised and bagged and stacked everything. Thankfully Mother Nature chose not to test us with a winter flood. We are debating perhaps leaving everything raised through the remainder of the off season, or until work begins on the interior from the LAST damaging event in September.

The following picture was taken at 3 p.m. on Sunday, December 28. You can see why even a slight warning, it’s imperative that we protect the house immediately.

 

Whitney French
Site Manager for the Farnsworth House operator - Landmarks Illinois
Help Save the Farnsworth House by Donating Today.

Monday, December 29th, 2008 Uncategorized No Comments