NEWS ALERT: World Icon Farnsworth House Under Water; Video as the Flood Rises

Posted on: September 14th, 2008 by Barbara Campagna 5 Comments
Rainfall from the remnants of Hurricane Ike floods the Farnsworth House

Rainfall from the remnants of Hurricane Ike floods the Farnsworth House, September 2008.

Unfortunately, Texas is not the only state impacted by Ike and the other tropical storms. Our National Trust Historic Site and National Historic Landmark, Farnsworth House , designed by Mies van der Rohe and opened in 1951 is under water. Tropical Storm Lowell and now Ike are behind the rains that are still pummeling the Midwest.  The flood waters continue to rise. It has been raining with flood waters rising since Friday night. Unlike the story many of you have heard about the flood last August at the house, the rains/floods have not stopped 6” below the entrance and the house now has at least 1 foot of water in it.

Water from the Fox River entering the Farnsworth House

Water from the Fox River entering the Farnsworth House, September 2008.

Our director, Whitney French, and a host of volunteers from Landmarks Illinois , our partner and manager of the site, worked tirelessly last night to secure the house before it got dark. There is really little that can be done beyond lifting all the furniture on plastic milk crates (a system we devised last August when confronted with similar flooding) and turning the electricity off. The house was built in a hundred year flood plain, but if you read my previous posting on disaster planning – climate change has significantly impacted so many of our regions, including Plano Illinois. In the 60 years since the house was built, there have been 60 floods and now 7 hundred-year floods.

Securing the furniture in the Farnsworth House - a photo from last August.

Securing the furniture in the Farnsworth House - a photo from last August.

There is about 1 foot of water INSIDE the house. All the furniture was raised but there is nothing further that can be done, and in fact the house is pretty close to being unreachable, as the entire community is underwater and it is a very dire situation. Three bridges between the town and the house are now out. Whitney is now fearful for her house and is working to protect her house and family. The rain is still coming down and is not showing any signs of letting up. We will get the insurance ball rolling tomorrow morning, but in the mean time we can just hope and pray that the rains stop and that the community and its citizens are safe. And send good wishes and karma to Whitney and her family.

The house and tours are closed for the foreseeable future. Access to the house currently is only by boat, and this is not safe. The ironic thing of course, is that with the house sitting on 5 foot stilts, it is incredibly evocative as this photo at the top of this posting shows - taken last year when the floods did stop before entering the house. We will keep everyone apprised and ask you to give Whitney and the staff of Landmarks Illinois the space and time they will need to recover.

Below is a video on YouTube that one of our intrepid volunteers, Denny Frantzen, took last night, before the floodwaters entered the house.

Updated to include newly-received photos from today's flooding.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Barbara Campagna

Barbara A. Campagna, FAIA, LEED AP BD+C was formerly the Graham Gund Architect of the National Trust in the Stewardship of Historic Sites office. She is currently a sustainability consultant to the National Trust and can be reached at bcampagna@bcampagna.com.

Green, Modern Architecture

5 Responses

  1. Architectural Icon Farnsworth House Under Water « More to Come…The DJB Blog

    September 14, 2008

    […] Trust Historic Site.  National Trust Graham Gund Architect Barbara Campagna posted a report on the PreservationNation blog which describes the impact.  Site Director Whitney French and other staff and volunteers from […]

  2. PreservationNation » Blog Archive » NEWS ALERT: World Icon Farnsworth House Under Water; Video as the Flood Rises

    September 15, 2008

    […] PreservationNation » Blog Archive » NEWS ALERT: World Icon Farnsworth House Under Water; Video as … This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL. « VLC media player update. […]

  3. PreservationNation » Blog Archive » Farnsworth House Offering Restoration Tours to Raise Funds

    October 9, 2008

    […] month ago, the Farnsworth House, a National Trust Historic Site and icon of modernist architecture, was flooded in the by tropical storm Lowell and the aftermath of hurricane Ike. The house was closed to the public in the immediate aftermath, but is now opening on a limited […]

  4. Stefan Ochs

    October 13, 2008

    sorry for this, paid my last visit on christmas eve in 2003 at the farnsworth house enjoying he site and the masterpiece of modernist architecture by crawling the fence. too sad to see this. from germany with hope for change ( yes we can! ). Stefan

  5. Guillermo

    January 15, 2009

    Wow! I always knew that the house was on pillars to prevent the flooding, I just never imagined the water could get so high!

    Good for the house that the interior was designed in such a minimalist style, otherwise the cost of these occasional accidents would be terribly high!

    I just found a really interesting web site that has just been opened in English were you can find more info about this house for those who are interested in it.

    http://en.wikiarquitectura.com/index.php?title=Farnsworth_House

    You can also download free AutoCad drawings and other cool stuff. It’s worth it to take a look!