Grace Farwell McGann, daughter of 19th-century U.S. senator Charles B. Farwell, grew up in Fairlawn, the fine Italianate villa her father built in Lake Forest. When the house burned down in 1920, McGann enlisted the New York firm of Delano & Aldrich to design an even more impressive residence. Aces at creating homes for America’s moneyed class, the firm counted among its projects John D. Rockefeller’s Kykuit estate and Oheka, the 127-room Long Island summer home of financier Otto Kahn.
The team built a Georgian mansion for Grace, founding president of the Arts Club of Chicago, and her husband, Robert, a manufacturer of heavy machinery. The home at 965 E. Deerpath Road had everything for a socially prominent couple: swirling grand staircase, paneled library, formal gardens. They don’t build them like this anymore, certainly not for the current asking price of $6.5 million.
Even before her new home was completed in 1923, McGann was bemoaning that Lake Forest, where “busy men in the midst of making a big city” returned every evening to “as simple a life as could be lived in any New England Village,” had lost its charm, thanks to newcomers seeking the bucolic life.
Within a few years of McGann’s death in 1949, Fairlawn’s eight acres were subdivided, but the remaining three-plus acres are one sweet domain. The eight-bedroom house is set amid extensive lawns punctuated by a pool, an arbor, and a fountain. A seven-car garage is connected to the house by a heated tunnel, and the one-bedroom coach house has a kitchen and living room. For all the mansion’s old-school bona fides, including a foyer the size of a studio apartment, its interiors are clean and crisp, with a minimum of decorative millwork. A modernist Barcelona chair would look as at home here as a classical Queen Anne highboy. You wouldn’t dream of putting anything less in a house like this.