Mies-designed Farnsworth House appears safe near rising Fox River

April 22, 2013

The historic Farnsworth House was left surrounded—but, thankfully, not flooded—by waters from the nearby Fox River in the wake of last week's heavy storms, a representative of the National Trust for Historic Preservation said.
 
"We do not believe that the water breached the interior of the building," Katherine Malone-France, an outreach director for the National Trust, which operates the property as a house museum, said Saturday. "The lower terrace has just come into view and as soon as it is safe for our staff to walk to the house, we will be able to confirm this."
 
Designed by architect Mies van der Rohe, the one-room modernist home was built in 1951 on 60 picturesque acres nestled on the banks of the Fox River in Kendall County, near Plano, Ill. The Farnsworth's eight exterior columns also act as stilts that elevate the home five feet above the ground. The home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a National Historic Landmark.
 
But the Farnsworth's riverside setting makes it prone to flooding. Last week's floods caused water rise to the level of the home's floor, according to photos making their rounds on Facebook and Twitter. The accompanying photos, taken Saturday by National Trust staffers, show the home after the waters started to recede.
In 2008, more than a foot of rising waters entered the home, damaging an original 12-foot tall wood wardrobe designed by Mies. The wardrobe was removed and repaired and will be displayed come summer in a new building called "the Barnsworth," designed near the home by IIT architecture professor Frank Flury and his students.
 
Malone-France said since 2008, the Trust has a protocol for raising and protecting the home's fabrics and Mies-designed furnishings in advance of a flood. Such prep work was done last Wednesday before the heavier rains fell, she said.