a photo of Granny when she was a young
girl in her father's house in Chicago. What fun she would have had
with a computer today. She took thousands of photographs some of which
you can see hanging on the door and then all those silouhettes she
made on the wall were probably lastest fashionable hobby of the times.-
"His name was Robert G. McGann. I was very fond
of him and was lucky to have known him. He was very amusing and had a
great sense of humor which I'm afraid our own dear father did not. Our
father and this grandfather thoroughly disliked one another. He was very
elegant and dressed beautifully and liked international high society.
Princess Dumpy Lichtenstein knew him well and liked him. He liked to travel
for pleasure rather like me and unlike our father. Granny was the one
I loved the most in the family. What a pity it is that you were too young
to get to know her. For me she was marvellous." from
a note from Jimmy
"FAIRLAWN: THE FARWELL/McGANN ESTATE
AT 965 EAST DEERPATH"
PART I: CHARLES AND
MARY FARWELL'S HOME, 1870 TO 1920
The Charles B. Farwell/Grace McGann estate
-- at the east end of Deerpath and on the south side of the road
-- is among the most important houses in Lake Forest, combining
as it does high architectural achievement and a heritage of owners
of the property distinguished in commerce, politics, art, music,
literature, collecting, patronage, and even the craft of fine bookbinding.
The site was first built on in 1870 by Charles B. Farwell, Chicago's
first political boss and later a U.S. Senator, and his wife, Mary
Evelyn Smith Farwell. Through his three gifted daughters -- Anna,
Rose, and Grace -- and their husbands "Fairlawn" became an important
artists' community, especially each summer around the turn of the
century. The original Italianate "Fairlawn" burned in 1920, after
Charles and Mary's death, and was rebuilt in 1920-23 by their youngest
daughter, Grace -- this time to plans by leading New York Country-Place
architects Delano & Aldrich. Uniquely and dramatically in Lake Forest
"Fairlawn" combines architectural importance and achievement with
historical interest for the civic/political, commercial, and cultural/artistic
contributions of those who have lived there. In two columns this
story will be told, in this issue the chronicle of "Fairlawn" during
Charles and Mary's lifetimes (to about 1910) and in the next issue
from the World-War-I period to the building of the new house by
Charles and Mary's youngest daughter, Grace, in the early 1920s
and up to the present.
Charles B. Farwell's political and commercial
rise began in the early 1850s. He was a native of New York state,
of New England origins, and raised on an Illinois farm. He married
Mary Evelyn Smith, a New England school-teacher in Chicago who as
a young scholar had studied the classics with the daughters of Mark
Hopkins, president of Williams College and a founder of the uniquely
American liberal-arts-college idea. With his brother, dry-goods
merchant John V. Farwell, Charles established a business/government
relations partnership that presumably would raise congressional-committee
eye-brows today, but which in post-Civil-War America helped develop
at an unprecedented pace in world history (and claim for Chicago
interests) the great American west. In 1852 Charles became City
Clerk and is credited with creating the first Chicago political
machine. In the 1870s he went to Washington to represent Chicago
in Congress and in 1880 he was elected one of Illinois' two Senators.
In the late 1860s both brothers set about building estates in Lake
Forest on either side of Deerpath at the lake: John on the north
side and Charles on the south side. Away from business, too, their
interests were complementary: John's contributions were in religion
and social service while Charles's inclinations and strengths were
in art-collecting, education, and patronage.
Commercially the Farwell brothers' great
coup was in 1875, during the Grant administration/Reconstruction
era and while Charles was in Congress, trading a completed Vermont-marble
capitol building in Austin, Texas for 3,000,000 acres (nine counties)
in the Texas panhandle -- the legendary XIT Ranch.
Developed over eighty-five years as a ranch
with British investors and where later oil was found (!), the XIT
Ranch drove a fortune that, through Charles and his family, impacted
culture in Chicago, Lake Forest, and the country as a whole. Charles,
Jr. died before adulthood, but through their three daughters the
Charles Farwells sparked a flowering of culture and contributed
significantly to laying the foundation for the pre-World-War-I Chicago
"Renaissance." For the oldest daughter, Anna, former educator Mary,
with Charles, launched the coeducational "collegiate department"
of Lake Forest University in 1876. They built the main hall there,
now Young Hall, in 1878, and in 1890 the Henry-Ives-Cobb-designed
Gymnasium, now Hotchkiss Hall. Second daughter Rose graduated from
Lake Forest College in 1890 and Grace attended briefly. Anna (Lake
Forest College Class of 1880) became an author, publishing ten books
from 1889 to 1941, including two novels and an important biography
of John Paul Jones (1913) -- largely written summers at "Fairlawn"
as were her other books -- which uncovered a forgery scandal. Jones
letters had been fabricated by a previous and much-quoted biographer,
Buell. Anna's research drew national and Congressional attention,
along with a favorable comment from the eminent historian, Henry
In 1884 Anna had married musically- and
dramatically-inclined Oxford graduate Reginald DeKoven, the son
of expatriate New Englanders living in a Florentine villa. Charles
Farwell backed time abroad for Reginald to learn to write light
operas, founding American musical theater around 1890 with DeKoven's
highly successful Gilbert-and-Sullivan-like "Robin Hood" and his
hit song, "Oh, Promise Me." DeKoven also agitated for an orchestra
in Chicago in the period just before the Chicago Symphony's founding
in 1891 and later himself founded the Washington Philharmonic.
The old "Fairlawn" of 1870, which would
be destroyed by fire in 1920, was a great wooden Italianate mansion,
much in the style of the 1860 Holt house, on Sheridan at College
Rd. (discussed in the first column in this series), though larger.
The Holt house, though, is brick covered by clapboard; and the second
1920-23 "Fairlawn" would be poured concrete covered by brick for
fireproofing. A high roof-top cupola on the 1870 mansion must have
yielded a magnificent view of the lake, over the tree tops. Jutting
east was a one-story conservatory which later was converted into
a picture gallery. The site, on the crest of a gentle slope toward
the one-hundred-foot-high bluff at Lake Park, itself gave a spectacular
view of the lake -- at the tallest point along the Illinois shore.
The picturesque grounds were laid out by Frederick Law Olmsted,
probably when he was in town around then planning both Jackson Park
on Chicago's south side and also the west suburban community of
Riverside where the street system much resembles Lake Forest's,
as planned in 1856-57 by Almirin Hotchkiss. The site, the house,
and the park-like grounds are shown in a photo reproduced in a large,
clear illustration in Michael Ebner's 1988 book, Creating the North
Shore, on p. 32. There was a pond, too, on the northwest corner
of the estate. At that time the grounds filled the entire block
bounded by Lake Road, Spring Land, Mayflower and Deerpath. This
park-like estate was the setting in June of 1893 when the famous
Augustin Daly theatrical company did a performance of Shakespeare's
"As You Like It" as a benefit for the Chicago's World's Columbian
May 6, 1995
Oh, Promise Me
F rom Reginald DeKoven's comic operetta Robin Hood
Lyrics by Clement W. Scott
Oh promise me that someday you and I,
Will take our love together to some sky.
Where we can be alone and faith renew,
And find the hollows where those flowers grew.
Those first sweet violets of early spring,
Which come in whispers thrill us both and sing
Of love unspeakable that is to be,
Oh promise me, oh promise me.
Oh promise me that you will take my hand,
The most unworthy in this lonely land.
And let me sit beside you in your eyes,
Seeing the vision of our paradise.
Hearing God's message while the voices roll,
They're mighty music to our very souls.
No love less perfect than a life with thee,
Oh promise me, oh promise me