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."
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