THE ARCHITECTURAL RECORD
VOLUME XXXI NUMBER III
THE RENAISSANCE VILLA OF ITALY DEVELOPED
INTO A COMPLETE RESIDENTIAL TYPE FOR USE IN AMERICA
THE HOUSE OF HAROLD F. MCCORMICK, ESQ. AT LAKE FOREST, ILL. CHARLES
A. PLATT, ARCHITECT
VILLAS AND GARDENS of Italy have excited the
admiration of the world for centuries. These villas were country homes,
intended for the occasional occupancy of their owners, who, history tells
us, were men of large means, of big ideas, of education and culture. They
were the expression of social conditions of the age in which they were
developed. The owners of these villas brought with them to the country
all the civilization of the city together with that desire for artistic
attainment which their culture demanded.
consequence we find that the Italian villa included not only the casino
or dwelling place and the other necessary buildings, but the park with
its gardens, terraces, fountains and pavilions as well. These parts were
arranged to give the fullest opportunity for the enjoyment of the various
pleasures of country life and to reveal at every turn the beauty of the
Italian villa of the Renaissance has come to have a peculiar value as an
architectural type under contemporary American conditions. We find to-day
a large number of our countrymen who in many respects can be favorably
compared to the owners of the past. Conditions seem to be repeating
themselves in the desire of our more fortunate citizens for life in the
country. It is a characteristic of Americans to know what will best meet
their requirements. We seem to show a power to assimilate ideals,
traditions and forms which are not native to the soil. It can not be said, however, that in the act, we lose
any measure of originality. It is that freshness, life and color imparted
by the sympathetic use of historic models which is giving propriety to
In the March, 1904, issue of THE ARCHITECTURAL RECORD, we
called attention to the part Mr. Charles A. Platt has taken in making the
Renaissance villa a complete residential type. It now remains for us to
study one of the most recent examples of this development.
Harold F. McCormick house at Lake Forest, ILL., has given Mr. Platt an
unusual opportunity to realize one of his early aspirations, that of
working freely in the style about which he is so enthusiastic, a style which
has not been undertaken by many of the American architects,
notwithstanding its appropriateness for the large American country house.
at Lake Forest, Ill., situated on the shore of Lake Michigan, were most favorable
for the location of just such a house.
excellent judgment that prompted the architects of the Italian villas in
the selection of the site, the ingenuity with which every natural
advantage of the place was made use of and the skill with which the
designer has disposed the various parts to form a charming whole,
disclosing new surprises and unexpected delights at each turn, has been
shown in the McCormick plan.
McCormick property consists of many acres with a large frontage upon the
lake. The ground rises abruptly from the water to the court terrace
level: a height of seventy feet. The house has been placed on the edge of
a heavily wooded bluff overlooking the Lake and the surrounding
turns into the grounds from the highway the house is to be seen
terminating a broad drive. This drive divides as the house is approached,
making a splendid Lawn before the entrance.
not realize that they are in such close proximity to the lake as they
approach the house through the wooded drive. It is not until the house is
entered, and passed through, that the wonderful glimpse of the water
comes to one as a complete surprise. Upon a sunny day it is hard to
believe you are not sojourning in Italy itself with the
blue waters of the Mediterranean
sea at your feet.
will be see that the buildings are so placed that there is a progression,
artistically managed, from the unconfined naturalism of the forest park to the strict
formality of the grounds which immediately surround the dwelling. We
include among our illustrations, a general plan which is well worth
architectural feature has been made of the Lake approach which has
been cut through the trees opening up a full view of the water from the
court terrace. We show the design for this scheme on page 223. The
Italian method of making a feature of this avenue is not lost sight of.
Fountains, pools and cascades are included with embellishments of
statuary at the different terrace levels. A bath house has been worked in
at the lowest level. This opens onto the swimming pool.
house was originally less than half the size that our illustrations show
it. The East (Lake) front remains
unchanged. The addition was made on the West (entrance) front by adding
all the rooms shown on the plan west of the staircase. The form of this
addition was dictated by the width of the promontory on which the
buildings are located. It would have been impossible to enlarge the house
on either the north or the south ends.
construction throughout has been used. The house is built of brick
covered with nearly white cement stucco. All the trimming and ornamental
features are of limestone. The roof is concrete, covered with red tile.
cornice is particularly interesting in detail and color. It gives another
touch of the Italian influence with its weathered brown brackets with the
panels between decorated in blue and gold.
enters the house he finds himself in a wide entrance hall, stone lined with
an interesting carved wood ceiling. From this hall a barrel vaulted
corridor extends through the house to the Loggia and court terrace. Our
frontispiece pictures in a most attractive manner just what can be
expected upon reaching this loggia. There are unrestricted vistas in
side of the corridor are the Open Court and the Pompeian, or Fountain Court. Both of these courts
have been treated as architectural features, as will be seen by the
library and dining room overlook the lake and open upon the loggia and
court terrace. Photographs of all the rooms are shown among the following
attention should be called, however, to the drawing room with its walls
of Formosa marble. Instead of
the garish and cold appearance so often associated with marble as a wall
covering, this room is of a color and warmth which makes the room most
livable. The floor of this room is teak. Throughout the remainder of the
house the floors are marble or terrazzo.
dining room and the library are paneled in Italian walnut with painted
ceilings. These ceilings add to the many interesting features.
McCormick house is one of three that Mr. Platt built at the same time on
the shores of the Great
Lakes, the Mather house near Cleveland, which The
Architectural Record published in November, 1910, and the Alger house
situated on Lake