If you are interested in architecture or engineering, the Mies van der Rohe designed Farnsworth House is a “must see” attraction. But if you have young kids or could care less about architecture, you are best to skip it.
I’m not going to go into the history of the house; you can read that at farsnworthhouse.org. At the web site you can view all the tours, and they tell you when a tour is sold out. You need advance reservations and each ticket is $20, plus a service charge if you order over the web. Plan to arrive 30-40 minutes before your tour. Make sure to have the directions off the web, it can be difficult to find. When you arrive, you park in a gravel parking lot in a farm field. The visitor’s center is a metal shed at the end of the parking lot that doesn’t look like much on the outside, but is very nice on the inside with a gift shop, small theater area and rest rooms, but no food. The film runs continuously and has a good overview of the history of the house in 20-30 minutes. The gift shop has a large selection of architecture books. The bathrooms are unisex, so you can choose either one!
To get to the house, you walk down a bark covered trail through the woods and over a creek. Part of the trail is just grass, it takes about 10-15 minutes to walk the ¼ mile and is very pretty. Once you get to the original property line, you can see the house. The guide will talk about the exterior and the relationship to the river. There are lots of great photo opportunities as you approach the house. You will then walk to the terrace and hear more about the house. You have to stay on the trail (poison ivy). Then you go up to the terrace and remove your shoes. They are benches to sit on, and socks if you need them. The floor of the house is marble with some carpet and the house is air conditioned in the summer. It is not uncomfortable walking on the marble with socks, it almost feels soft. Photography is not allowed inside the house, but our guide let us take pictures from outside through the glass.
You would expect a glass house to be harsh, but it isn’t. The house is very clean and calming due to the design. The view is wonderful with trees, lawn and the river, and it is easy to see Ms. Farnsworth sitting here on weekends reading and relaxing from her job in the city. The tour gives you plenty of time to explore the house and take in all the views. You cannot sit on the furniture inside the house, but there are benches on the terrace if you need to rest
After going through the house, our tour guide showed us the underside of the house, and let us wander around the grounds behind the house and take pictures for about 10 minutes. The total tour was about 90 minutes.
I have been debating going to the Farnsworth House for several years because I thought it was overpriced. But now that I have seen it, the tour is definitely worth it. Our tour guide was great and very patient, and showed many details of the house that would normally be missed. For the architecture or engineering buff, I highly recommend this tour.
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