John Farson

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Millionaire banker John W. Farson was one of Oak Park’s most legendary turn-of-the-century figures. Famous for his immaculate white flannel suits, red cravats and ties, and top hats. Farson had a vast circle of friends who shared his interests in everything modern. As his passions shifted from horses to automobiles to roller skating, Farson amazed Oak Parkers with his public-spirited nature and high energy. 

Born in Union City, Indiana, in 1855, John Farson grew up in Champaign, Illinois, where his mother moved shortly after the death of his father. He attended Illinois Industrial University, the predecessor of the University of Illinois. John Farson came to post-fire Chicago with $25 in his pocket. In 1881, John Farson married Mamie Ashworth, who spent her childhood in Rockford, Illinois. They were members of the First Methodist Church of Oak Park, supporters of the local Horse Show Association, and members of numerous social clubs.

John Farson 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. For a number of years, Farson hosted band concerts open to all Oak Parkers on his unimproved property. 

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. By late 1901, an Italian garden was arranged to the south of the house, and the fence was fabricated. Farson purchased and razed as many as 10 houses to extend the grounds. It took until 1906 for Farson to assemble the entire estate.

Sketches of the new house and barn for the site appeared in architecture publications in November 1897. A $10,000 circular stable and carriage house was added to the grounds in 1898 and was later converted into a garage. 

John Farson delighted in entertaining and was known for throwing open his house and gardens for large gatherings. Called Oak Park’s “prince of entertainers” by the local Oak Leaves newspaper, Farson kept scrapbooks filled with descriptions of social events at Pleasant Home.

John Farson passed away suddenly in 1910. Stories of the large and elaborate gatherings that took place over the years on the grounds of Pleasant Home and in the house itself, continue to fascinate visitors, who can almost hear the music wafting down the stairs.



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