Pleasant Home was designed in 1897 by noted architect George W. Maher for investment banker and philanthropist John W. Farson and his wife Mamie Ashworth Farson. The design of Pleasant Home broke with the traditional Queen Anne and colonial revival styles of most of the homes in Oak Park.
The 30-room architectural gem is a showcase of 19th-century craftsmanship and artistry, with rich custom woodwork throughout the location, extraordinary art glass windows, a massive fireplace, intricate woodcarvings, and tile work.
Millionaire banker John W. Farson was one of Oak Park’s most legendary turn-of-the-century figures. He purchased the lot at the corner of Pleasant St. and Home Ave. in 1892 for $20,000, the largest price ever paid for a residential lot in Oak Park. As Pleasant Home was being completed in 1898, Farson began to acquire adjacent property with the idea of creating a garden to the south and west.
Herbert S. Mills, the second owner of Pleasant Home, made his fortune in the amusement business. While the Mills family preserved much of the interior design by Maher, they redecorated the drawing room. A tiled fireplace surround was installed and painted canvas placed on the ceiling and walls. Raising eight children during the years they spent in the home, the Mills lived more quietly than the Farsons. In 1939, when the Mills family sold the house to the Park District of Oak Park, the grounds were designated as Mills Park in their honor.
About the Architect
The architect of Pleasant Home, George Washington Maher (1864-1926), was first listed in city directories in 1883 as a draftsman for Chicago architects Augustus Bauer and Henry W. Hill, Maher left their office by 1887 to take a position with architect Joseph Lyman Silsbee. There he worked with Frank Lloyd Wright, George Grant Elmslie, and Cecil Corwin. The commission from John Farson for Pleasant Home initiated a new period in his work, a series of grand houses set on large estates often appointed by the Midwest’s finest artists and craftsmen.
George Maher wrote about the need for a new American architecture. His work is aligned with the progressive architects in Chicago who developed a new approach to design free from historical references. Maher and his contemporaries, now known as the Prairie School, embraced many of the ideas of the arts and crafts movement: truth to materials, a belief in fine craftsmanship, and a desire to incorporate the local environment in their buildings and its details.
Pleasant Home was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. That same year, it was included in the Illinois Historic Structures Survey. In 1996, the National Park Service made Pleasant Home a National Historic Landmark and the Village of Oak Park named it one of the first Oak Park Landmarks.