Farnsworth House Renamed the Edith Farnsworth House in Recognition of the Multitalented Woman who Commissioned the Building from Architect Mies van der Rohe
In celebration of its 70th anniversary, Farnsworth House, a site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, will be renamed the Edith Farnsworth House. This official rededication asserts the formative role of Dr. Edith Farnsworth (1903-1977) in the creation of the iconic structure, confirming her partnership in the home’s design and recognizing her many accomplishments as a research physician, poet, translator, classical violinist, and patron of art and design.
For decades, the Edith Farnsworth House, a symbol of architectural innovation, has been characterized as the achievement of one person: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886–1969). Today, few admirers realize that the client and benefactor, Edith Farnsworth, was herself a visionary woman and a passionate supporter of the arts. Ahead of her time in the post-World War II era, Edith Farnsworth lived an independent life of cultural and intellectual exploration and discovery. For decades, her story, as well as her pivotal role in the creation of this landmark, has not received the prominence it deserves.
This rededication serves to correct the narrative regarding the relationship between Edith Farnsworth and Mies van der Rohe and her role in the building’s creation. Edith Farnsworth’s abiding interest in artistic innovation introduced her to Mies’s talent and led her to commission his first residential project constructed on American soil. Thanks to her foresight, the architect was inspired to create a contemporary weekend home that was in concert with the natural environment of the Illinois countryside. Widely regarded as an architectural marvel, the Edith Farnsworth House helped establish Mies’s prominence in America.
"We hope this seemingly simple act of inserting her first name has the larger effect of inserting her into the ongoing history of Modern architecture,” said Scott Mehaffey, Executive Director of the Edith Farnsworth House. “Without Edith Farnsworth, Mies van der Rohe’s American career might have remained stalled and his stature usurped by his contemporaries. Edith was fully aware that she was both a client and a patron, and she played an active role in the design of her house, which has become a celebrated milestone in the evolution of Modernism.”
“The Edith Farnsworth House has always been a place of barrier-breaking ideas, and its rededication carries that legacy forward in deeply meaningful ways,” said Katherine Malone-France, Chief Preservation Officer of the National Trust. “Doing this not only acknowledges the important role of Edith Farnsworth, but it also demonstrates that historic sites can and must continue to evolve as they tell us the truth about ourselves and help us define a more just and equitable future.”
“From the moment of its completion, Edith Farnsworth’s home was publicly and primarily associated with its architect, Mies van der Rohe,” said Christina Morris, who leads the National Trust’s campaign for Where Women Made History. “Rededicating the site enshrines her role in the creative process and ensures that the original patron and owner of this Modern icon – an independent woman, medical professional, and artistic spirit – will be squarely at the center of the story, where she belongs.”
“Our national campaign for Where Women Made History is driven by a commitment to tell a more truthful and equitable American story through historic places,” continued Morris. “By bringing recognition and respect to women’s achievements and honoring the many ways in which they have changed their communities and changed the world, we move closer to a society in which women’s contributions are instinctively understood and valued as equal.”
In 2020–21, the Edith Farnsworth House celebrated “Edith Farnsworth Reconsidered” with exhibitions and programming focused on its namesake’s life and times. The centerpiece of this project, which will run through December 19, 2021, is “Edith Farnsworth’s Country House,” a temporary refurnishing of the home to reflect its 1955 appearance as Edith’s home. A guided tour, film, and exhibits focused on the untold story of this remarkable woman are also available.
A rededication ceremony will be livestreamed from the Edith Farnsworth House on Wednesday, November 17, beginning at 2:00 PM CST. This date also marks Edith Farnsworth’s birthday. The event will be broadcast on Facebook and Instagram via the Edith Farnsworth House’s social media channels.
About the Edith Farnsworth House
Conceived in 1945 as a country retreat for Dr. Edith Farnsworth, this Mies van der Rohe-designed masterpiece is a pilgrimage site for architects, designers, and Modern design enthusiasts worldwide, and is considered one of the most important Modern assets in the United States. While visually minimal, the house’s structure is extremely complex and interrelated. The house as finally built appears as a structure of Platonic perfection against a complementary ground of informal landscape. EdithFarnsworthHouse.org
Visitor Information: All visitors must check in at the visitor center. Access to the property is only available with a ticket. Masks are required when indoors and when you cannot socially distance outdoors. Visitation hours are April-November, 9:30 AM - 3:30 PM, and January-March, 10:30 AM - 2:30 PM.
About the National Trust’s Campaign for Where Women Made History
A multi-year initiative by the National Trust for Historic Preservation to honor the female leaders, thinkers, activists, and groundbreakers who contributed to American history and culture, and to protect the places where those women made their mark. savingplaces.org/womens-history