WELCOME to Villa Turicum. These pages
are devoted to the esoteric lost estate of Edith Rockefeller McCormick.
I’ve included collections of features, photographs, and links about
anything pertaining to this enigmatic place. Please return for another
visit as I am always updating the site.
I think there is no better way to begin than with an
article that was written in 1930, just two years before Edith’s death and
the slow demise of Villa Turicum:
TURICUM" THE COUNTRY ESTATE OF MRS. ROCKEFELLER McCORMICK
Lake Forest, Illinois
By F. A. CUSHING SMITH,
A.S.L.A. Editor, The American Landscape Architect
elms grace the long greensward of the mall that leads to the residence at
the country estate of Mrs. Rockefeller McCormick, at Lake Forest, Illinois,
as the finest example in America of the Italian treatment in
landscape design. This notable summer home, of approximately three
hundred acres, is situated on a high bluff overlooking Lake
Michigan. The entire plateau, which is nearly level, and the steep
bank toward the lake, are covered with a fine
stand of native oak, maple, ash and hickory. The elusive and delightful
pattern of the estate design has been boldly cut out of this woodland. So
cleverly have the details been worked out by Charles A. Platt, the
designer, that at no one point can the entire
beauty of the plan be admired. Bits of ancient Italian garden ornaments,
charming details in bronze and wrought iron, and original pieces of
sculpture are used as accents and points of interest at the ends of long
sun-flecked vistas or as the central features of the various gardens and
terraces. One can almost imagine, upon a blue-skied June day, that a
villa from the Italian lake region had been bodily transplanted to Illinois.
Entrance detail of Villa Turicum.
The Villa was fireproof, constructed of brick overlaid with an off white
stucco; the roof concrete and covered with red tile. All of the
ornamental details were made of limestone. This begs one to wonder, did
the house really have to be
The residence, which faces the
western sun, is finished in stucco with green shutters, tile roof,
balanced fenestration, and a stenciled cornice in bright colors. It
terminates a broad mall, about one hundred feet in width and five hundred
feet in length, which is reached by a long straight stretch of entrance
road cut through the forest. The service wings of the house to the north
are concealed by the heavy native woodland planting, which lines both
sides of the approach mall. The first glimpse of the residence from the
west, as it is framed by the woodland, and viewed between the arching
branches of the elm trees which mark the edge of the central grass panel
of the mall, is a sight never to be forgotten.
garden, with its fountain center, is perhaps the loveliest feature of
The house terrace to the
east is the first of several levels that extend down to the beach. In its
center there is a large marble fountain, with a bronze figure as the
decorative feature. The two wings of the house almost enclose this
terrace, while toward the east or lake side, the broad panorama of Lake
Michigan spreads out before us.
sun-room to the South, there is a charming view of the fountain terrace
and the stately promenade to the tea-house pavilion.
It is on this steep bank,
toward the lake, that there was completed, in 1912, a series of terraces,
reached by winding ramps and steps. The terraces are marked by some
beautiful pieces of sculpture, which as fountain sources have been set
into niches in the easterly retaining walls of the various overlook
levels. The water which originates in the fountain on the uppermost
terrace reappears in a wall fountain and basin on the second terrace.
This terrace, of grass, is enclosed by a balustrade, and from it we reach
the next lower level by means of a semi-circular winding series of ramps.
So cleverly has the width of the ramps been studied, and so easy is the
incline, that neither ascending nor descending tires the visitor. At the
bottom of the stairway is the level from which the marble shells form a
cascade of some height. Above the cascade is a pink marble baby figure,
which pours water into a lower basin, from which it reaches the mouth of
a marble dolphin at the upper end of the cascades.
The second of
a series of terraces that break the descent to
the beach. The water which flows from this dolphin fountain has its
source in the center fountain of the upper, or house, terrace.
In this, the
succeeding, terrace, the water again emerges from a figure fountain and
reappears as a cascade in the shell-like channel.
Steps of marble lead down
either side of the cascade. The water is so regulated that it gently
follows the contours of the shells, with just a pleasing murmur. Tall,
dark, pyramidal cedar and arbor-vitae make a dense impenetrable frame for
this picture. The intermediate terrace, which lies between the two series
of cascades, is rather narrow, with a stone flower-box and a low
balustrade toward the east. At either side, the stone ramps lead down to
the fountain which is the source of supply for the lower cascades. Here a pelican, guarded at each side by a grinning
alligator, fills a basin and becomes the source of the quietly splashing
waters of the lower cascade. At the foot of the steps, at the side of the
second waterfall, is a terrace paved with brick. This forms the roof of
the dressing-rooms adjacent to the marble swimming pool. The swimming
pool, heavily framed by woodland planting, terminates this interesting
cascade descends from a fountain & basin featuring a pelican and twin
dolphins to the bath house and swimming pool below.
:: Grounds ::