Edith Farnsworth HouseA Distinctive Destination
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The Edith Farnsworth House was designed and built between 1946 and 1951 as a weekend retreat for prominent Chicago nephrologist, musician, and poet, Dr. Edith Farnsworth, as a place to relax, entertain, and enjoy nature.
It is recognized as an iconic masterpiece of the International Style of architecture and has National Historic Landmark status. The architect was Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and this was his first and most significant domestic project in America. Located 58 miles southwest of Chicago, the glass and steel house is set within a natural landscape on a 62-acre parcel located along the Fox River.
The significance of the Edith Farnsworth House was recognized even before it was built. In 1947, a model of the Edith Farnsworth House was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Describing it, Philip Johnson (the show’s curator, whose own Glass House was inspired by early drawings for this house) noted that “Farnsworth house, with its continuous glass walls, is an [even] simple[r] interpretation of an idea. Here, the purity of the cage is undisturbed. Neither the steel columns from which it is suspended, nor the independent floating terrace break the taut skin.”
In the actual construction, the aesthetic idea was progressively refined and developed through the choices of materials, colors, and details. While the livability of its design proved to be less than ideal, and the cost overruns were substantial, the Edith Farnsworth House would increasingly be considered by architects and scholars alike to constitute one of the crystallizing and pivotal moments of Mies van der Rohe’s long artistic career.
“Notwithstanding a few disagreements and tension, the summer of 1949 was brilliant and exciting. For me, [it] was marvelous because it fulfilled my ideal that persons trained in different fields should seek to understand the ideals and the principles common to all fields.”Edith Farnsworth
After Dr. Farnsworth's retirement to Italy, the home was purchased by Lord Peter Palumbo, a British developer, art collector, and architecture connoisseur, who opened the house and property to limited public tours. In 2003, the National Trust and Landmarks Illinois acquired the property at auction through the generosity of several private donors, and the Edith Farnsworth House has been open as a public since 2004. Currently, one-third of annual visitors come from outside of the United States, including many architects and designers.
Previously known as Farnsworth House, the iconic site was officially rededicated by the National Trust as the Edith Farnsworth House in fall 2021 to elevate Edith’s story as a visionary and a patron of the arts, as well as to shed light on her fascinating life and legacy.
The Edith Farnsworth House stands as a metaphor for the fragile union between humanity, art, and nature – a balance of the controlled and uncontrollable and of the physical, intellectual, and aesthetic.
As a National Trust Historic Site, the Edith Farnsworth House offers immersive programs highlighting the relationship of the house with its natural setting, the stories of people associated with its creation and stewardship, and how this house continues to influence the worlds of art and design.
The Edith Farnsworth House and its setting are extraordinary, offering a unique blend of experiences –educational, artistic, reflective, and inspirational. The site is open Wednesday-Sunday from April through November and on Fridays and Saturdays in January and March.
Benefits for National Trust Members
50% Off Regular Public Tours
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