Flood

“Every Day Gets Closer To Normal”

Friday we hosted a parade of various professionals brought to us by Antunovich Associates, the architect of record for our Save America’s Treasures grant work. We met with sealant specialists, stone experts, painting contractors, a veneer authority, and a steel cabinet refinisher. Many of these folks worked on the restoration project in 1996 when Lord Palumbo was subjected to a 1,000 year flood which brought more than five feet of water into the house. It was fascinating to hear their recollections. We also celebrated the return of the missing stone step which has been expertly repaired by the Conservation of Sculpture and Objects Studio. Andrzej, the artist who performed the work, has volunteered his time and expertise to help us with the final cleaning of the stone. We also had an interesting discussion about using lasers to attempt primavera repairs.

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Things are beginning to look a little more normal. The portable dehumidification equipment and fans have now been removed, the primavera panels are temporarily reinstalled, and the furniture is back in place. It is still stunning to us everyday to see the house without the wardrobe, but there’s a comfort to having things slightly more settled. We still have a lot of work to do, but we are taking the time to debate the correct approaches to several items. The benefit that the house receives because of the partnership between Landmarks Illinois and the National Trust for Historic Preservation is that we offer a great series of check and balances to the process of restoration and preservation of the house.

Today was a landscape day, beginning with a visit from two wood experts, a forester, and a furniture maker. We are examining the safety of the site since losing the giant Basswood and we are searching for ways to responsibly reuse the materials. My crew (Deena and Scott) and I spent several hours clearing the upper path in preparation for tours. The lower path is still too muddy to traverse. The mosquitoes are pretty outrageous, but the fall colors are beginning to show and a few more cool nights should kill of the majority of the bugs.

I’m looking forward to sharing this state of the house’s repair with visitors and I’m really anxious to see our volunteers again. Everyday gets us closer to normal.

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

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008 Flood No Comments

Special Tours Now Offered with Fees Used to Help Flood Restoration

I’m pleased to announce that we are opening the Farnsworth House for special tours through October 2008. Every Wednesday at 1 p.m., I will lead a tour of the house for a $100 donation. I’ll show you first-hand damage; recount the hours just before the flood; explain the effort currently underway with contractors, conservators, and our board of directors; as well as be the first to reveal the stunning views of the interior seen for the first time without the teak wardrobe.

On the weekends, for a donation of $50, there will be special docent-led tours. Visitors will experience an expanded standard tour with views of the flood-damaged property and learn about our current restoration efforts.

Click here to see what times and dates are available for the weekend tour, or click here to sign up for a Wednesday site director tour.

These are truly unique and special tours we are offering during this very difficult time. We are still working very hard on all recovery efforts which will ultimately cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. We hope you will come out, support these efforts with a donation, and have an educational experience learning about what we are dealing with on a daily basis.

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

Monday, October 6th, 2008 Flood No Comments

Work Slows As Insurance Negotiations Continue

Forward momentum is at risk as we have been stalled negotiating with our insurance provider.  We had made arrangements for the furniture to be moved to an offsite facility so it would be protected during our work, but with our coverage parameters in question, we have delayed further spending until these questions are answered.  We are now scheduled to move the furniture back into the house, with the exception of the wardrobe, and we will continue to collect recommendations from professional consultants, conservators and contractors.

The most significant and costly damage has occurred around the core. We will have to reconstruct the three doors (two bathroom doors and the mechanical room door) as they have swollen and can no longer close.  The wing walls have expanded and the seams are gaping, the core has some significant areas of delamination, and what appears to be glue induced discoloration of the veneer below the flood line.  The kitchen cabinets are showing rust and there are still several locations we haven’t managed to investigate because the analysis requires further deconstruction. 

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We have plans to remove the sealants from the lower edge of the windows to dry out the cavity below and then reapply the sealant, and this will be an expensive undertaking.  We believe it is necessary to lift some travertine to investigate and potentially dry out the bays below, where the drains are clogged, to prevent damage from the winter freeze, which is not far off.  All of this pending work is still being assessed and a parade of architects and tradesman continue to visit so that we can properly scope and estimate the jobs, but until things are settled with the insurance provider, we are at a standstill with completing anything but the most critical work.

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

Friday, October 3rd, 2008 Flood No Comments

Despite Mother Nature, Wardrobe Removed

Monday saw a lot of tasks being scheduled including some of the final cleaning, decontamination, and continued dehumidification. Giertsen, our restoration specialists and flood recovery contractor, really stepped up to the plate and did not only their own job, but also jumped in to help us relocate the teak wardrobe. The Giertsen team scrubbed and cleaned, disinfected, sprayed highly dehumidified air into all the cracks and crevices of the house, measured, monitored, and metered. They wrapped up most of the cleaning by days end, and left equipment behind to continue with the drying out process.

The Chicago Conservation Center sent a team out to pick up the wardrobe. The drawers and some of the chrome “closet organizers” from the interior were removed and the piece was shrink wrapped. Of course, as luck would have it, it rained all morning. Between getting trucks stuck in the mud and moving from “plan A” to “plan B” to “plan C” and back to “A” again, we finally managed to get the wardrobe tucked away and hauled off to safety. As of the end of the day yesterday I received word from the CEO that the wardrobe had indeed been secured in their facility. We will have a few conservators and consultants review the piece and make some recommendations.

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Tuesday we performed some landscape assessments with a team from the Illinois Institute of Technology and I spent a lot of time on the phone arranging for more estimates and speaking with more specialists. There is a lot of pressure to re-open for tours, but the grounds are still really saturated and the mosquitoes are unbelievably thick. We are constantly discussing strategies for allowing public access because interest is so high and hope to have a sound proposal constructed in the next few days for what an abbreviated tour schedule might look like. Stay tuned.

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

Wednesday, October 1st, 2008 Flood No Comments

The Numbers

The Farnsworth House Steering Committee had a very productive meeting last week. The Committee consists of members from Landmarks Illinois Board of Directors and staff, as well as staff from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. We toured the house and property allowing some to see the aftermath of the devastating flood on September 14. Needless to say, everyone is very eager to move forward with the two highest priorities:

  • Saving the House from the damage it sustained in the flood
  • Opening the House for tours as soon as possible

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Last week also brought a visit from our insurance adjuster and a wood conservator who will provided much-needed guidance on the work needed for the primavera wood core and teak wardrobe.

We are very close to quantifying the damage to the House. We estimate Landmarks Illinois will lose over $90,000 in revenue with the House being closed for the rest of the 2008 visitor season. A very rough estimate of approximately $400,000 will be the cost to fix all damage caused by the flood.

Due to the significant loss of critical revenue, we are evaluating the possibility of an abbreviated tour program yet this year, but it’s still just a bit too early to tell if this is a real possibility. Stay tuned to our website for updates.

Your donations are very much appreciated and needed as we continue to work. Thank you to everyone who is mentioning us in your blogs and sending people our way for financial support. The emotional, technical, and monetary assistance have all been touching and sincerely appreciated and we hope it continues.

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

Monday, September 29th, 2008 Flood No Comments

The Real Work Begins

We have all of the collections out of the house so we can protect them while we get to work cleaning up the mess and fixing the damage. My movers were a great group of friends and volunteers and I am extremely grateful!

The assessments are in full swing and a wide array of recommendations are being made by a slew of noted experts whose opinions are varied and approaches diverse. We are hosting a bunch of meetings tomorrow that include another round of experts followed by the decision makers locked in a room at the end of the day to discuss the various options.

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Our insurance adjuster is coming on Thursday. It will be interesting to see his reaction to our unique situation. This isn’t the typical “throw out the drywall and insulation and start again” scenario.

One shining light, the weather has been gorgeous. Today has been high 70s sunny and breezy, perfect weather for drying out a flooded landscape. The path is still absolutely beyond navigation. I went about 15 feet and emerged with 20 pounds of mud caked to the bottom of my shoes.

We have received a wide array of comments and well wishes from fans of the Farnsworth House and I would like to extend a global thank you to all. I try to answer everyone personally, but its not always possible, so please understand that your emails are appreciated.

Whitney French
Site Manager for the Farnsworth House operator - Landmarks Illinois

Help Save the Farnsworth House by Donating Today

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008 Flood No Comments

Closed Due to Flood

Today was spent speaking to conservators and debating various approaches to solving a variety of issues at the house. I continually receive many emails from the legion of fans who admire the house and your well wishes are greatly appreciated.

I’ve included a few photos today of the anomalies of destruction, the oddities of the effects of water on various pieces and some of the innards of the wall construction (if you’ve purchased a GA Details book from our gift shop, you can identify this piece of steel inside the wing wall).

It seems that with every disaster there are poignant signs that remind us of the immediacy of the situation. Our closed sign was scrawled on the back of a poster we carry in our giftshop, the Farnsworth House in its beautiful fall splendor can be seen on the opposite side. A new sign is soon to go up and this one will retire to the archives of the Farnsworth House and catalogued as the 2008 “Closed due to Flood” sign. Maybe one day it will be featured in a museum exhibition?

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We will soon be able to quantify the damage. But regardless, we need your help. Many have already provided generous donations and we hope others will do the same. Simply click the Donations link at the top of this page.

Thanks again to everyone for all of your support and your kind thoughts.

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

Friday, September 19th, 2008 Flood No Comments

HVAC is Up and Running

The HVAC specialist, Dennis Smith from Artlip Heating and Cooling came back out on Thursday and got the second dehumidifier and floor heat up and running. The Farnsworth House has exaggerated dehumidification capacity upgraded by the previous homeowner, Lord Palumbo, to protect his artwork from humidity and prepare for the eventuality of additional floods.

I took some photos of the varying levels of silt build up to better illustrate the river’s varying effects on the floor surfaces. They represent the lower deck, the upper exterior deck and the interior. They were merely wiped with a cloth and so aren’t as clean as they will be after appropriate treatment, but I think they illustrate the impact.

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We are working with several professional conservators and flood restoration specialists to collect a range of advice on the most appropriate actions. Pre-planning can be discussed and is highly advised for any emergency situations, but there is nothing like an actual drill to give you a reality check. We are learning a lot and will document our findings for our own benefit as well as the benefit of others.

Whitney French
Site Manager for the Farnsworth House operator - Landmarks Illinois

Help Save the Farnsworth House by Donating Today

Friday, September 19th, 2008 Flood No Comments

Drying Things Out

We were able to get an HVAC technician out today. After spending much of the day in the mechanical room of the house, he was able to get the west dehumidifier running again. The Farnsworth House has two dehumidifiers—one for the west side of the house and one for the east. The east-side humidifier will be fixed tomorrow. As of the end of the day the humidity level was down to 54%.

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We did have a bit of luck. The tree shown in my blog post yesterday, narrowly missed the injection pit for the dehumidifier. Water drains from the roof of the house and the dehumidifier down a pipe which drains over 100 feet from the house into a injection pit near the river. If the tree had hit the injection pit pipe, we would not have been able to start dehumidifying the house so quickly.

I wish this blog had a scratch and sniff widget so you could experience the smells in and around the house. It has taken a while to get used to and the best description would be—dead fish.

Tomorrow, a noted wood conservator will visit to begin assessment of the primavera panels on the core of the house, as well as the teak wardrobe.

Whitney French
Site Manager for the Farnsworth House operator - Landmarks Illinois

Help Save the Farnsworth House by Donating Today

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008 Flood No Comments

Beginning the Clean-Up

Water has finally receded into the banks of the Fox River. We experienced a challenging time reaching the house today as water was in-between being able to reach the house by boat and by foot. The south yard is now above the water level but the house is still surrounded by a foot or more on all sides. As you can see, it was high enough for a few kayakers to have a unique look.

This other picture is of Farnsworth House staffer Scott Lucas as he takes a first look at the loss of one of the largest trees on the property.

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We were able to get an electrician into the house to thoroughly examine the electrical system. Electricity is now back on. Tomorrow, the HVAC system will be examined and brought back on line. This will allow us to fire up the dehumidifiers and further the drying process. Windows were also finally opened so much of the moisture captured in the house has diminished.

A good part of the day was also dedicated to talking with media. The Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, NPR and Beacon News were just some of the many who interviewed Landmarks Illinois staff and myself. We even got a call from a news helicopter who was trying to find the house from the air.

We appreciate the donations many people have already started to give. They are very much needed and will go a long way in helping restore the house.

Whitney French
Site Director for the Farnsworth House operator - Landmarks Illinois
Help save this masterpiece by
Donating Today

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008 Flood No Comments