217 Home Ave Oak Park, Illinois USA

John Farson House / Pleasant Home

Construction date: documented 1898*

Current name:

Pleasant Home

Architect:

George W. Maher

Style:

Prairie School

Open to the public:

Yes.   Pleasant Home Foundation
www.pleasanthome.org
Open Thursday - Sunday

Historical Summary:

The clean lines, flat surfaces, massive stone-framed rectilinear windows, broad chimneys, and expansive porch openings distinguish this residence from the mansions usually designed for wealthy clients in the late 19th century.
Originally the house was surrounded by seven acres of landscaped grounds and gardens. The large windows on the south facade afforded a wide view of the rose gardens, summer house, tennis courts, and greenhouse.
John Farson, a lawyer and banker known for his philanthropic endeavors as well as his penchant for red ties, commissioned George W. Maher to design his home. The name "Pleasant Home" was chosen beacuse the property is located at the corner of Pleasant Street and Home Avenue.
Maher was a contemporary of Frank Lloyd Wright and shared Wright's interest in developing a uniquely American style of architecture. Maher practiced a "rhythm-motif theory," establishing two or three design elements that were repeated throughout the building. This concept is expressed at Pleasant Home int he geometric shape of a "tray" framed by a spray of honeysuckle, the arrowhead, the lion's head, and the interplay of squares and circles throughout the building.
A rolled steel fence with an elongated "tray" design encloses the north and east sides of the estate. The arrowhead motif on the imposing urns flanking the entrance is repeated under the eaves of the house. The drain scuppers on the exterior wall of the front porch are decorated with lions' heads as are the brackets on the third-floor dormers. The tray wrapped in honeysuckle, as well as the circle and square, are basic elements in the design of the art glass windows on either side of the front door.
Pleasant Home is the realization of Maher's belief that a house should have massiveness and solidity to express substantiality, an ideal he presented in an 1887 speech, "Originality in American Architect," delivered to the Chicago Architectural Sketch Club.
After Farson's death in 1910, Herbert Mills, a manyfacturer of vending machines, purchased the property for $175, 000. The Mills family lived here until 1929. in 1939, the village's park district bought the property for $202,000 (Ridgeland Revealed, p22-23).

Significant Owner(s):

John Farson

 

Status of Historic Designation:

Designated at National level : National Historic Landmark, 1996 / Ridgeland/Oak Park Historic District
Designated at Local level : Oak Park Historic Landmark, 1996 / Ridgeland/Oak Park Historic District

Rating or Rank:

Contributing

Evaluation of Potential Eligibility:

Individually eligible
Potentially eligible as a contributing resource

Architectural Description:

This is a 2.5-story museum in the Prairie School style built in 1898. The structural system is masonry. The foundation is stone. Exterior walls are original brick and original limestone. The building has a hip roof clad in replacement asphalt shingles and four hip-roofed dormers. There is one side right, side slope, brick chimney and one side left, side slope, brick chimney. Third brick chimney on rear slope. Windows are original wood, 1-light fixed. Also stained glass windows. There is a single-story, full-width open porch characterized by a hip roof clad in asphalt shingles with square stone and brick posts on geometric patern stone piers. Original arched wood door with stained glass windows flanked by two arched stained glass sidelights.

* Date source: Village of Oak Park building permit archives.

Description generated by RuskinARC.