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Pleasant Home: Oak Park, Illinois February 10, 2008

Posted by dr. gonzo in Architecture, Houses, National Historic Landmarks, Prairie style.

The last few days have been a breather, stopping here in DeKalb County. A short drive toward Chicago, though, and we are in, perhaps the most architecturally significant village in the United States, Oak Park, Illinois. Oak Park is home to dozens of residential works by Frank Lloyd Wright, and other Prairie Style masters. But before we dive knee deep into Wright we must stop over and see an architect we talked about the other day, George W. Maher.

1897 – John C. Farson House (aka Pleasant Home) (rear view)

At the intersection of Pleasant Street and Home Avenue in Oak Park stands the John C. Farson House. The Farson House is a key example of early Prairie style, designed by Maher in 1897 during a time period when Wright was still maturing and experimenting in Oak Park, the Farson House gives us a glimpse at the direction early modern architecture was about to take.

Pleasant Home is built from a buff colored Roman brick

The Farson House’s location, at Pleasant and Home, has given it a more common name, Pleasant Home. The three story Roman brick house displays features characteristic of Maher’s Prairie work, the low pitched hip roof, the large entry porch, ample setback from the street, all of these connect Maher’s work with his contemporaries such as Wright.

Maher’s decoration is lavish both interior and exterior

Maher had his own design philosophy and it took in the house as a whole, including its interior and furnishings. His philosophy, dubbed motif rhythm theory, sought to integrate the decorative elements of the building with the interior furnishings. Nearly all of the elaborate interior decoration is preserved today.

An interior shot, note the stained glass in the background

The house is in fine shape, subject of a 1960s renovation and restoration project, as are the grounds. In fact the grounds appear much as they did when Maher designed the house. The original iron fence, designed by Maher, still graces the property.

A Maher designed fence surrounds Pleasant Home

Pleasant Home is operated by the Pleasant Home Foundation and is part of the 7 acre Herbert Mills Park in Oak Park. Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972, the house was declared a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior in 1996 because of its importance as a key example of early Prairie style architecture.

I highly recommend checking out this slideshow by Chicago photographer Darris Lee Harris. It’s a large PDF file, that takes a minute to download but it is very much worth it.

Online Resources
*John C. Farson House: Official site
*John C. Farson House: National Historic Landmark listing summary, National Historic Landmark Nomination Form; Illinois Historic Sites Survey Inventory Form (p. 1-17)/Oak Park Landmark Nomination Form (p. 18-33)
*Wikipedia: Pleasant Home, George W. Maher


1. Crushing - February 10, 2008

That is an amazing house. You’re in way over my head on the architecture lingo but I particularly like the balcony and rounded porch areas, as well as the awning over the entryway. They give nice accents to the vertical lines everywhere else, all the decorative stuff does actually.

2. dr. gonzo - February 10, 2008

If you haven’t been to Oak Park you must visit. My next visit will be in the spring if you want to come with. I am trying to plan it so I can tour this house. I already toured the Wright Home and Studio in Oak Park so now just Pleasant Home, Unity Temple and, hopefully, the WrightPlus Housewalk in May. Aside from the housewalk this stuff isn’t that expensive to see.

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