Floods spared historic Farnsworth House in Illinois

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Farnsworth House as it appeared in 1971.

American preservationists breathed a sigh of relief in August as the Farnsworth House, a Ludwig Mies van der Rohe designed house widely considered a masterpiece of modern architecture, was spared by flooding along the Fox River in Plano.

Storms deluged much of the Midwest, causing rivers throughout the region to overflow their banks. At the Fox River in Plano flood waters spilled over four acres of the 58-acre Farnsworth House site. Waters continued to rise through August 24, until they were just 18 inches from the front door.

According to the reporting of the Chicago Tribune preservationists developed a disaster management plan on the spot. Staff used boats to access the house and once inside raised the vulnerable furnishings to higher levels atop crates.

Flooding along the Fox River in 1996 caused a large plate glass window in the steel and glass home to break, resulting in $250,000 damage and preservationists feared a repeat of that incident.

"We really lucked out and can look at this as a drill," Barbara Campagna, architect for National National Trust for Historic Preservation, told Preservation Online.

The Farnsworth House was completed in 1951 and designed by internationally famous architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe for Chicago doctor Edith Farnsworth. The house is a National Historic Landmark and a nationally significant example of modern architecture. As one of the most famous examples of such architecture, the Farnsworth House was unprecedented at the time of its completion.