Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Farnsworth House, Closed Until Further Notice.

Farnsworth House, the Ludwig Mies van der Rohe modernist masterpiece, was a casualty of this weekend's record-breaking rains. Farnsworth House is located along the Fox River near Plano, Illinois, just outside of Chicago. The house is on stilts but the river rose to a level 18 inches above the first floor. Although the damage could have been much worse, and has been worse in previous floods, this is the first time the house has flooded since it was acquired by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Landmarks Illinois in 2003.

Farnsworth House has been a big part of my year.

Over the winter, they announced a volunteer docent program. I volunteered, received my training, and began to give tours this spring. I set myself a goal of going out there for a day every two weeks and kept to that pace for a while. The last time I was there was Friday, August 1. I needed to focus on some other things and took what I hoped would be a short break. Last week things had cleared away enough that I thought I could get out there again. Whitney French, the site director, asked if anyone could come out on September 25. That worked for me so I signed up.

Then the rains came. The river was already out of its banks when Whitney sent her note but you never can tell and at that point they were standing by. The river finally got into the house on Sunday.

There are some amazing pictures on their web site. There is copious information there as well, which I won't bother to repeat here. There is a prominent link to their blog, where they are providing daily updates. Naturally, money is needed. In addition to clean-up costs, they will have no money coming in from ticket and gift shop sales until they can reopen.

So, no more tours for now. I'm disappointed because the season is over prematurely and I'm saddened by the damage, but I'm grateful that it wasn't worse.

Staff and volunteers were able to get all of the furniture, floor coverings, draperies and other stuff out of the house in advance of the water. They have a team of volunteers who live more-or-less nearby who are prepared for just this sort of emergency. It takes me two hours to get out there on a good day, so I can't participate in that, but I imagine there are volunteer clean-up days in my future. I hope so. I need my Farnsworth fix.

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