Preservation Magazine, Winter 2022

An Essential Piece of the Edith Farnsworth House is Now Restored

After the Edith Farnsworth House was built in 1951, it became celebrated for its fanatical detailing and pure Modernist perfection. But 70 years of wet weather on the site along the Fox River in Plano, Illinois, had left the National Trust Historic Site’s exterior travertine pavers in bad shape. “The stones were buckling and cracking,” says architect Ashley R. Wilson, who led the National Trust’s approximately $640,000 effort to restore the building’s Lower Terrace last year.

Lower Terrace_EFH

photo by: Matthew Gilson

The house's Lower Terrace and both sets of stairs underwent a comprehensive restoration completed in late 2021.

Wilson worked with architects and engineers Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates (WJE); Zera Construction; preservation easement holder Landmarks Illinois; and various subcontractors to make sure the restoration work would meet the sky-high standards set by architect Mies van der Rohe and original owner Edith Farnsworth. They replaced the pavers on the Lower Terrace and the upper steps with matching Italian travertine, then salvaged and repaired the original stones on the lower steps. And they revamped the terrace’s water defenses by adding new drains and multiple layers of waterproofing under the stone, cleaning and repainting the steel structure, cleaning an existing layer of concrete panels, and re-caulking between the pavers.

The Lower Terrace restoration was unveiled at a rededication ceremony on November 17, 2021. The event also celebrated the site’s official name change, which adds “Edith” as a way of emphasizing Edith Farnsworth’s crucial role in the house’s creation.

Meghan Drueding is the executive editor of Preservation magazine. She has a weakness for Midcentury Modernism, walkable cities, and coffee-table books about architecture and design.

mdrueding@savingplaces.org @mdrueding

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