Field Trip: The Farnsworth House

On a quick visit home I stopped at The Farnsworth House, an architectural masterpiece designed by Mies van der Rohe in Plano, Illinois.  The 1,500 square-foot, one room weekend retreat features glass walls that showcase the adjacent Fox River.   The house was commissioned by Dr. Edith Farnsworth in the late 1940s as a place for her to get away from Chicago and enjoy nature.  When she met van der Rohe at a party and asked him to design the house she knew she was in for something special.  Berlin born van der Rohe directed The Bauhaus before bringing his designs to Chicago.  He emphasized that less is more with the simplistic design of The Farnsworth House.

 

Preserving the house as presented many challenges over the years.  Within the first few months of ownership the Fox River flooded into the home, ruining the expensive silk curtains.  The materials for the home were all very fine quality, primavera wood and Italian stone floors, but expensive to maintain and replace.  The home has flooded a few times, causing a disaster each time; the glass breaks, the wood warps, the curtains stain.

Visiting the house feels like stepping into a sculpture, a piece of art you can walk through and feel.  It’s marvelous to look at photos of the stunning house but only when experiencing it in person do you feel just how silent it is on the inside or how cool the stones feel beneath stocking-covered feet.

I love visiting a new place that offers something new to learn and experience which is why I’m starting a new section on the blog: Field Trips.  Keep checking in for more education day trips like a visit to The Farnsworth House.

To plan a visit to The Farnsworth House or make a donation, visit: https://farnsworthhouse.org

Fall Destination Guide: Hudson River Valley

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The Mountains cradling the Hudson River are not intimidating as a name like Storm King would suggest. The tall walls of fall foliage wrap the little river towns like a scarf. Independent shops, art galleries and cafés dot the walkable streets. Bountiful farms, orchards and wineries lay just beyond the towns. Many restaurants in the area proudly source ingredients almost exclusively from the valley. Hiking trails through forests, up mountains, and along cliffs lead to panoramic views.   Hudson Valley embraces both the old and the new serving as a backdrop for opulent estates of the gilded age and modern conceptual sculpture. It’s a great place to spend a long weekend and take in the very best parts of the fall season.

Continue reading “Fall Destination Guide: Hudson River Valley”

Jerome, AZ

View from the MountainLast year I visited Phoenix, AZ and one of the more memorable day trips was to a little old mining town called Jerome.   Location wise Jerome is Southwest of Sedona and Flagstaff but directly North of Phoenix / Scottsdale.  The drive, like anywhere in the American Southwest, is stunning.  Cactus-lined roads wind up and around mountains trails and bright cerulean skies pop against the rocky terrain.  I’m from the midwest and am used to flat fields as in all directions so to me Arizona is practically another planet.  I’m grateful my hosts drove, allowing me to gape moronically at the striking natural beauty that never seemed to end.

A big J marks the side of the mountain you drive up to find Jerome, I guess this is an old Southwest tradition. While scaling the trail we stopped and pulled over to check out an old car abandoned in a ditch. I’m not skilled in dating old cars but it looked at least 60 years old. This was the first forgotten old thing of many we saw that day.

Here's the car we saw in the ditch.
Here’s the car we saw in the ditch.  Who knows how long it has been there just covered in rust like that.

The actual town of Jerome is just like any other old, rural town in America. Relics of the past are not pristinely kept for the sake of preserving history but rather survive because of a, “if it ain’t broke” mentality. We drove past old saloon and shops, an ice cream parlor, police station… the staples of any small town, and kept on up the hill. At the very top we stopped at one of many local haunts, the Jerome Grand Hotel.

The Hotel has been the big draw since the being featured on an episode of Ghost Hunters or something like that. During it’s past life the hotel served as a hospital for the miners and surrounding town. It was considered a good hospital with modern technology but the death toll is massive, averaging out to at least one per day for the about twenty years it operated. The death count, an the original Otis elevator, and years of rumors have won the hotel a spot on the list of the country’s most haunted places. We asked politely and were given some keys to go exploring. I didn’t get the haunted vibe and none of my mirror pictures had orbs. But I don’t know if I’d want to stay there overnight.

The next stop on our trip was the old ghost town. The town is really just an old junkyard with some buildings and just a few residents. I have no idea what the few people who do live there do other than charge admission to look at an old one-room school house and gas station. We met a man with a little dog who was using a machine to saw logs I think. The dog was friendly but the guys living there were not—there were a lot of threatening signs to back my theory.

Jerome is a memorable and worthwhile trip. The drive from Phoenix is beautiful and the old town is definitely an interesting slice of life in the old Southwest. While the haunted aspect might be a little blown out of proportion but the town is definitely full of antique charm. We didn’t stop for dinner or drinks but there are plenty of places for that, too.