'Friends and Neighbors': A most pleasant home

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By David Pierini

Staff Photographer

Oak Park millionaire John Farson loved to entertain and had a mansion built for just that purpose.

More than 100 years after his death, his home continues to welcome.

Pleasant Home, located in Mills Park at 217 Home Ave. (the corner of Pleasant and Home), is one of four national historic landmarks in Oak Park. In a village where residents and tourists can walk comfortably among its architectural wonders, this landmark seems to invite guests to "make yourself at home."

On any given warm day, the grounds of the prairie-style mansion are host to picnickers, frolicking children, dog walkers and those who stroll without an eye on the clock.

Farson used to open his property to the public on Sundays for this same kind of use. He even encouraged roller-skating and offered his carriage house to beginning skaters who might not want to be embarrassed.

The 4.3-acre park is named after the home's second owner, the great inventor Herbert Mills (aka "The Slot Machine King"). The Mills family sold Pleasant Home to the Park District of Oak Park in 1929 and a foundation is now responsible for its upkeep.

Party guests once walked through an arched entry into the Great Hall, a Gatsby-esque setting for parties and social events, once called "brilliant" by the local papers.

Today, visitors can stroll on self-guided tours, and sit on the Great Hall's velvet settee to stare at the art-glass windows and mahogany trim. Private events, such as wedding receptions and teas, are held. On Fridays this past August, guests watched silent films on the expansive front porch with live piano accompaniment.

The second floor of Pleasant Home is home to the Historical Society of Oak Park-River Forest, where researchers and genealogists make discoveries about local history in what was once the master bedroom.

"I've worked here for so long, it can get a little mundane for me," said Frank Lipo, the society's executive director. "But then I'll see the sun coming through the art glass on a particular morning and say, 'Wow!' Sometimes you don't see the magic until someone points it out to you and reminds us that the magic is still here."

Email: david@oakpark.com

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Posted: September 6th, 2013 8:09 PM

cont. The Historical Society should be in a separate building on Lake Street near the Oak Park Visitors Center or anywhere BUT Pleasant Home. Stickers on the floors, posters on the walls, dirt and filth everywhere. I cringed when I went upstairs and saw all the garbage in those once beautiful rooms. It was like walking in a dusty old attic filled with garbage. Pleasant Home deserves the class and dignity that it was meant to have not used as a dumping ground for a business. Please leave His Soc.


Posted: September 6th, 2013 8:05 PM

I've been inside Pleasant home on a couple of occasions and was in awe of the beauty of it. Unfortunately, what ruins this beautiful and historic home is the Historical Society itself. How tacky and classless is it to see the downstairs and how gorgeous it is only to go upstairs and see it ruined by the ridiculous and cheezy displays and horrible rooms that the Historical Society takes up. What a disgrace to that this magnificent home is being "vandalized" by such crap.

Suzette from Oak Park IL  

Posted: September 6th, 2013 6:20 PM

Pleasant Home is one of the "hidden in plain view" treasures in Oak Park. A short walk from downtown and you are transported to another time and place with plenty of green space to relax and a gracious historic home to visit. Be a "tourist" and visit the home this weekend.

longtime oakparker  

Posted: September 6th, 2013 1:59 PM

Lovely place, not that welcoming though. Can't sit on anything, washroom not accessible, volunteers crabby, lady with long hair, been there forever even crabbier. Love the Historical Society though

June from Oak Park  

Posted: September 6th, 2013 9:54 AM

I love this article and the pic's; the next time you go just use your imagination to see the ladies and gentlemen from a by-gone era & stop by to see the exhibits at the Historical Society

David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: September 5th, 2013 1:03 PM

Really like the picture of the girl and dad searching for lost bracelet. Well done, Dave!

georgia brauun from chicago  

Posted: September 4th, 2013 8:50 AM

Franks comment was perfect. People are busy. If you have time for nothing more, stop by and at least take a look at these windows from the inside. They set a certain tone, historically and aesthetically, and tell a different story every hour of the day- every season. On a tired day, they will leave you feeling recharged and rebalanced. Such is the comfort and beauty of Pleasant Home! Nice picture!

Heidi Ruehle-May, Pleasant Home Foundation from Oak Park  

Posted: September 4th, 2013 8:25 AM

Thanks David for the lovely article! We enjoyed having you in the home and hope many more visitors come to enjoy all Pleasant Home has to offer. (A minor correction, the Park District of OP purchased the home in 1939). Visit Pleasant Home's website (www.pleasanthome.org) or on Facebook for a full listing of special events, performance, tour schedules and rental information.

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