Sometimes, the maintenance of sanity requires a brief escape from the urban and suburban. Here, we offer a suggestion for an afternoon jaunt to a small town just outside of Cook County. Trust us, it’s therapeutic.
Everyone and their mother has gone on the Frank Lloyd Wright architectural tour in Oak Park. The effect of seeing so many architecturally significant private homes strung along the pretty, shaded lanes of Oak Park is quite shocking, and represents one of the greatest collections of buildings in the country. But as we said, been there, done that (we trust you didn’t buy the t-shirt). What else is out available?
Well, this is as good of a time as any to mosey on down to the Farnsworth House in Plano, around 55 miles southwest of Chicago, by Aurora. One of Mies van der Rohe’s most important works, the 1951 Farnsworth House is considered a masterpiece of modernist design with its four glass walls and few enclosed interior spaces. When built, it communed fluidly with its then-rural surroundings. The building was landmarked and turned into a museum in 2003 after being threatened by abandonment and development, but controversies over the house extend back to its birth: a new play about the tensions between Mies and Edith Farnsworth, who commissioned the house as a rural retreat for her poetry translation hobby, got a write-up in this week’s New Yorker. Evidently, Mies seduced Farnsworth into letting him build whatever he wanted, but when the arguably unliveable house (glass enclosures without interior walls or ventilation get very hot and very public) was finished, Mies fled back to his girlfriend and forbade Farnsworth from ruining the “purity” of the piece with her own art or furniture. Livid, Farnsworth sued, Mies countersued, and no one was happy.
No one, that is, but us intrepid day-trippers out for a bit of culture, relaxation, and gawking at the locals. Tours of the house run Tue-Sun, 10am-3pm, and cost $20 (keeping 60 acres preserved for art’s sake is not cheap). Also, you will have to take your shoes off before you go inside.
All this running around builds an appetite, and sampling the local cuisine is at least half the fun of leaving the city. We have three ideas, depending on your fancy:
• Mio Amore, the only restaurant in Plano with a website, is an Italian steakhouse doing it old-school style with dishes like Clams Casino, baked ravioli and veal parm. On Tuesdays, they do dinner for two for $25! (11 W John St, Plano, 630-552-9100)
• Blackforest Cafe/Wurst Kitchen is a little German restaurant with great word-of-mouth, if little web presence. The Wurst Kitchen part of the establishment is a branch of the more famous (not by much) one in Aurora (12 W Main St, Plano, 630-552-1770)
• The only thing we know about Uncle Lar’s Pizza is that they have a taco slice which locals swear by. If you’re into comparative pizza operations, this might be worth checking out (108 W Main St, Plano, 630-552-3535)
Isn’t it cute that they all use the same phone exchange? We recommend eating after visiting the Farnsworth House so you don’t foul it up with your greasy fingers and bodily emissions.
[Photo: Chicago Bauhaus. Just think: you can be one of those people, someday]