• <div style="background-image:url(/live/image/gid/94/width/1600/height/300/crop/1/30149_education.rev.1452788395.png)"/>
  • <div style="background-image:url(/live/image/gid/94/width/1600/height/300/crop/1/30148_english-_literature.rev.1452788374.png)"/>


Lake Forest Country Places: Mellody Farm, Part 2

Lake Forest Country Places XXVIII:

J. Ogden Armour's "Mellody Farm," Part II

One of a series of articles by Arthur Miller, Archivist and Librarian for Special Collections at Lake Forest College, originally published in the Lake Forest Journal, 1994-1997; some have been replaced or updated.

...It is just as wicked [and] shortsighted to murder the simple building next door with overwhelming scale [and] acres of pilasters [and] balconies as it would be to poison the owner....
Harmony on a street is just as important as in a parlor or a musical composition. Care in the grouping of a few inexpensive [buildings] can give a quality that no amount of expensive material can give the building thought out without relation to its surroundings.

— Howard Van Doren Shaw, architect of Market Square and "Ragdale"

The recent development of Longmeadow Lane, at the original pre-World-War-I entrance to the J. Ogden Armour "Mellody Farm" estate near Deerpath off Waukegan Road, provides the archetypical example of the serious danger from insensitive development facing Lake Forest at this time. It may be the worst single block ever built in Lake Forest, a community which is one of America's leading town-planning innovators both for its 1857 Almerin Hotchkiss plan and also for Shaw's 1916 Market Square. Today the proliferation of under-designed, over-scaled houses and additions, epitomized by this unfortunate Newell's Reserve development at the original entrance to "Mellody Farm," without regard either for their sites or for the other houses and landscapes around them, continues unabated west and east in town.

This trend is threatening the long-term economic, social and environmental stability of the community and its status, for nearly one-hundred and fifty years, as the leadership suburb of Chicago. Members of the community are urged both to follow closely the presentation of the City's ad hoc committee on this issue at one of the May Council meetings, not yet determined, and also to speak up assertively to show their support for new building-control measures for renewed enforcement effectiveness now. Also, they are urged to support municipal leadership as it tries to restore the crucial gatekeeper roles of the town's planning, zoning and building-review committees. New powers and also new commitment are needed to protect long-term local property values and prevent the further degradation of the community, especially former estate areas, by inferior houses and additions. Community residents should see this as one of the water-shed moments of the City's last quarter-century of history as it struggles to preserve itself from forces which, if left unchecked, will doom Lake Forest to inevitable mediocrity and, ultimately, to obliteration by encroaching suburban sprawl.
Well-intentioned compromise between incompatible ideals has resulted only in disaster: seen most glaringly along Longmeadow Lane.

In an early article in this series the interest and importance of the Italian villa which architect Arthur Heun built in 1904-08 for Mrs. and Mrs. J. Ogden Armour, now Lake Forest Academy in west Lake Forest, was discussed. The gardens and landscaping too were celebrated, especially the European-scaled and styled formal gardens west of the villa: if they were in Europe, they would be stops on tourist pilgrimages and everyone would know them. In this month's installment, though, the attention will be on the entrance to "Mellody Farm" on the west side of Waukegan Road, just south of Deerpath. A major portion of this former estate property, divided off from the Armour place many decades ago, recently came into the hands of the Lake Forest Open Lands Association, through the creative planning and exemplary generosity of some key members. Today much of this crucial "Mellody Farm" parcel, highly significant both as natural space and also perhaps especially as landscape architecture, is under the artful oversight and management of two gifted men. The first is one of Lake Forest's most important leaders at this critical time in its history, Prairie-Style landscape architect Stephen Cristy, executive director of the Lake Forest Open Lands Association. The second is the landscape architect commissioned for this Open Lands project, the knowledgeable and highly-respected Prairie-School practitioner and Lake Forest resident Clifford Miller (no relation!).

As has been mentioned in previous articles, this writer's information over the years mostly has come from queries and explorations by others at Lake Forest College's Donnelley Library Archives and Special Collections. Thus, just recently a visiting graduate student researching classic architect Howard Van Doren Shaw's Market Square turned up the remarkable quotation from Shaw, who wrote down very little, cited at the beginning of this article. Perhaps the vehemence of Shaw's expression in this passage from a handwritten speech to a group of architects suggests why the great architect (or those about him) normally channelled his articulation into his design work. But here, in the strongest moral terms, Shaw underscores the responsibility of the builder to his surroundings.

Trouble West and East

While on other business, this writer attended a 1996 City Council meeting where the Newell's Reserve/Open Lands relationship was a topic of discussion. Chance had me sit down beside a woman who, I soon could observe, was seething with anger at Open Lands. As one of the Newell's Reserve owners, she opposed two Open Lands' requests. The first was to make a very modest, sympathetic addition toward the street on the original classically-inspired small Armour gatehouse, designed by "Mellody Farm" architect Arthur Heun. The second request was to plant a row of trees and shrubs at regular intervals on the Open Lands side of Longmeadow Lane, along a line of rustic, horizontal split-rail fence. It was another owner probably who stood up and testified that she or he had planned her/his home so that the Open Lands prairie view could be enjoyed unobstructed from every room of the house. Open Lands now was trying to plant more trees to obscure these views of the open field from each room, in effect cheating this owner out of what she or he had bought and paid for. The Open Lands plan passed, but the owners and their builder, a local figure long associated with development in town, left not convinced or enlightened, but sharing freely among themselves their sense of injury. Confused by this, a day or two later this writer drove down Longmeadow Lane for the first time and saw the new housing there. Here was a hodge-podge of perfunctorily-applied styles on bulky manor-house-scaled structures jammed into urban lots irrespective either of each other or of the rare parkland adjacent. Further disturbing the harmony or rhythm of the row of houses was the number and scale of garages and their doors prominently visible from the road and, by extension, from the historic and beautiful parkland opposite.
Another example, on the old east side of Lake Forest. Just recently this writer attended a Building Review Board meeting and listened to another much more civil, but no less dramatic, interchange -- again while sitting waiting for another item of business. A life-long Lake Forest resident spoke about a project to go up next door to him. The speaker is a descendant of an historic Chicago and Lake Forest leadership family, from a Lake Road 1890s manor house and park now long ago torn down and broken up. The long-time resident respectfully complimented the new owner of the adjacent lot on his fine new home and mildly inquired if the angle of the facade could be adjusted so as not to face so directly his home. Painstakingly he did nothing whatsoever to give offense to his new neighbor or to make him uncomfortable then or anytime in the future. Apparently, a petition to another City panel would allow the new house's drive to enter from the street rather than an existing drive, to modify this angle. This writer wasn't clear about exactly how the discussion ended up or what the ultimate outcome has been.

In both the case of the Longmeadow-Lane/Savannah-Court development and also that of the infill place intruding on the east-side resident's privacy we could imagine how Howard Shaw, the designer of Market Square, would react. But it is important to look beyond the people and the passions of today and even of yesterday to the ideas which impel the words and deeds.

The Uncommon Sensitivity of the Two Sites

But first it is essential to understand the sensitivity of the two locations: both are of prime historical importance, the Open Lands site as landscape architecture and the east-side neighborhood especially as a Beaux-Arts architectural park of rare significance. The entrance area landscape to "Mellody Farm" off of Waukegan Road, dating back to the first two decades of this century, was designed by the two key founders of the Prairie Style of landscape architecture: Ossian C. Simonds and Jens Jensen. Sketches of these two men's lives and careers account for almost ten percent of the twenty-one designers profiled in American Landscape Architecture: Designers and Places ed. by William H. Tischler (National Trust for Historic Preservation, 1989). The article on Jensen, pp. 78-83, is by Stephen Cristy who is among the leading Jensen scholars and disciples in this generation. The article pictures Jensen's no-longer-extant work at "Havenwood," the Ryerson estate on Lake Forest's east side, as exemplary.

The Prairie Style was an outgrowth of the eighteenth-century informal English-landscape school and of the mid-nineteenth-century Downing/Olmsted picturesque school derived from it, but adapted to and inspired by this region's rich natural features, in part akin to those of Italy. As disparate writers as naturalist Donald Culross Peattie here and garden-historian Jane Brown in England have observed that distance for vistas -- framed views -- characterized this style's achievement early in this century. Another key element of this style was the natural horizontal character of the prairie -- hence, the name. But in addition, the style centered on restoration of the natural landscape using native rather than introduced, showy plant material. Also, it relied on repetition of plants and of structures which repeated the horizontal lines of the prairie: the branch structure found in native hawthorns, the flat-layered native limestone stonework such as that of the entry bridge in Jensen's design for Harrison House in Lake Bluff (originally Shaw's Kelley place, 1916), and the split-rail fence, parallelling the ground as at Shaw's "Ragdale" on North Green Bay Road, south of Harrison House. In Prairie-Style design gaps between plantings of groups of trees or of individual trees tended to frame and dramatize vistas, turning monotony into artful suspense and discovery. This theatricality is a quality traceable to the English-landscape school designers and their followers, such as Launcelot Brown and F. L. Olmsted. The vistas themselves also recall those of great Italian Renaissance villas. Striking tree- framed and -punctuated vistas are prominent features in Jensen's own masterful Door County, Wisconsin place, "The Clearing," in Cristy's article, pp. 82-83.

In the early twentieth century Lake Forest clients, public officials, architects and landscape architects possessed a shared understanding and appreciation of these landscape elements and values. Thus, the J. Ogden Armours first commissioned Simonds to lay out their long drive and a graceful bridge over the railroad tracks and then later retained Jensen to follow up with planting the thousand-acre estate. Jensen's dramatic photos of the site prior to his decade of work, on file at the Morton Arboretum, show how uninterrupted the prairie was before his inspired work, except for Simonds' roadway and bridge.

But at this end of the century some developers, their naive clients, and a few municipal officials and staff appear to lack this shared understanding, taste, and commitment necessary for them to be responsible stewards of such truly hallowed ground. At the Council meeting it was pointed out by one alderman that the trees would grow to a height which would not block the houses' views. But nobody was able to explain satisfactorily to the unhappy Longmeadow Drive freeholders their good fortune even right now in being rescued by designer Cliff Miller's archetypically-Prairie-Style landscape design which aimed to create artful vistas from their homes, even while the landscape architect also was protecting Open Lands property from the highly intrusive disharmony of the Longmeadow Lane streetscape.

The east-side case mentioned above is even more grievous, because the proposed new house does a disservice both to the landscape and also to the rich, world-class architectural heritage of the immediate neighborhood. The site is a delicate, handsome finger of land between two ravines. Two sisters in town who grew up next door in the twenties and thirties have told this writer that the eminent Illinois-resident nature writer Donald Culross Peattie (Singing in the Wilderness, 1935; A Prairie Grove, 1938) used to lead their family on explorations for rare wildflowers in the fragile boreal-climate microsystem found there, left over from the receding glaciers ten thousand years ago. Lake Forest is most significant for its environment and for its landscape architectural heritage. This observation was made by architectural historian Carroll William Westfall in 1981 when he led the Illinois-Humanities-Council-funded "Community Cornerstones" project at Lake Forest Library. Thus, especially on sites such as this one the landscape should dominate, as it has until now.

The east-side resident who spoke up lives in a 1920s house of rare distinction by a master Beaux-Arts architect of the Country Place Era here: truly a work of art. It is small (in a Lake Forest sense), restrained, of the best imaginable materials and design, and inobtrusively sited to fit, as into a glove, in its delicate setting in this sensitive part of town. The new house next door, though, is mindless of this highly-significant spot: over-built and under-designed. It could be lifted up and plunked down on any large-enough flat lot in west Lake Forest or Gurnee (or Amarillo, Texas) and be equally in harmony with or oblivious to its site. Half as much house by an accomplished architect designer, mindful of the potential of this spectacular site and the character of this remarkable Beaux-Arts district, would please the new owner much more in the long run and disturb the valuable, sensitive site and the neighborhood much less. The present design only underscores the worth and first-rate historic importance of most of the architecture nearby -- by David Adler, Harrie T. Lindeberg, Charles Coolidge, Dwight Perkins, Edwin H. Clark, James Gamble Rogers, Walter Frazier, Howard Shaw and others. This body of work generally is by architects of enduring national and international design reputations, all within a block or much less of this endangered "lot." Few (if any) corners of the Chicago region match this one for its delicate balance of landscape architectural, architectural and ecological importance. The under-designed, over-scaled house proposed for this site would disrupt this site for decades to come, even after it would be torn down for a better replacement structure.

Clash Between Systems of Ideas and Values

But why is there today this collision between the high artistic and environmental values and sensitivities of the early part of this century and the drive now for excess and personal gratification (every room a view!)? The College's library special collections contain a book which came from the family of the late Joel Spitz of Glencoe. The Spitz family was perhaps Howard Shaw's last country-house client in 1925-26 for an outstanding English Renaissance house on the sensitive edge of a ravine near the lake, with its landscape designed by Jens Jensen. The book is Interior Decoration: Its Principles and Practice by Frank Alvah Parsons (Doubleday, orig. 1915; this copy 1920; dated and signed by Spitz May 29, 1923). This was a manual written to educate those aspiring to fine houses in that Beaux-Arts era about historical styles, periods, and tastes. Parsons' underlying principle is that styles are symbolic of the cultures and periods from which they sprang, their social meanings: "...any art expression is but the natural result of harboring certain ideals and allowing the mind to see them as important factors in the satisfaction of life's requirements" (p. 144). Parsons outlines three main impulses behind styles and periods: classical, religious, and humanist. For the classical Greeks, nature was "God's expression of beauty in creation" but the humanist, from Parson's perspective and in this context, "saw nature as belonging to man for man's personal gratification." Thus, for example, the period of Louis XV (1715-1774) is the high-water mark of a time of commercial and materialistic ideals: the social ideal dominates with "luxury, sensuous pleasure and personal gratification" the avowed ideals of life. It "reaps a full harvest of all the ills attendant on the train of such ideals" (p. 156). Elsewhere Parsons declares that "inordinate display" in the late Renaissance or in the nineteenth century was "responsible...for the tawdriness and vulgarity" of social expression in building then (p. 128).

The conflict being waged in this community, then, is one of ideas and of ideals -- what people think and believe. Historically Lake Forest was founded to be a community in nature. Indeed, east Lake Forest appears to be the first Romantic full town plan, dating from 1856-57, a dozen years before Olmsted's well-known Riverside plan of 1869. Lake Forest's innovative plan by landscape gardener Almerin Hotchkiss (see Michael Ebner's 1988 book, Creating Chicago's North Shore) introduced on this scale curvilinear streets, a commercial district relegated to the western extremity of the design, and a no-growth concept relying on natural boundaries (lake, roads rounding off at ravines, and tracks). From the very outset, planning in this unprecedented suburban community was paramount: here first, before anywhere else on this scale. The focus on nature later also led the move to country places on Green Bay Road, by planner/architects Henry Ives Cobb (south) and Howard Shaw (north), and on Waukegan (then called Telegraph) Road. The places there (such as Shaw's "Clinola" for T. E. Donnelley), though often large, rarely were dominant: in nature, not over it. Even the massive "Mellody Farm" sat in a park of a thousand acres. But a bulky caricature (on a larger parcel it might be labelled an evocation) of Arthur Heun's original Italian-villa-inspired J. Ogden Armour house, in the final stages of construction, now perches on a high postage-stamp lot at the end of Savannah Court -- thrusting two double garage doors north and downward into the vulnerable, Jensen-designed surrounding landscape.

Today pressure not only is present to urbanize Lake Forest estate areas piecemeal, east and west, but also the pressure goes unchecked in the absence of the counterbalancing consensus of the earlier cadre of liberally-educated leaders, clients and designers who interchangeably were public officials taking seriously their community as a whole. They were here as permanent residents, as were their parents and would be their grandchildren and great-grandchildren. This impulse to reform before World War I led also to the building of Market Square by Arthur Aldis, Cyrus McCormick, John V. Farwell, Howard Shaw and others: with downtown no longer on the margin after 1910, but central, it had become an embarrassment. Market Square was the first such planned central shopping district in the nation, a jewel of the "City Beautiful" movement (see Market Square by Susan Dart, 1984). Now, descendants of this Reform-Era generation have led in the innovative reforming vision of Open Lands, wresting from the grasp of commercially-motivated developers and personal-gratification-seeking home-builders what adds up to now over five hundred acres for Open Lands ownership and management. Also, they have led in challenging the prevailing trend, assertively but perhaps not determinedly-enough to match the strength of the current in the other direction. In this writer's opinion, then, Longmeadow Lane and, promising soon to follow, Savannah Court are the worst blocks ever to be built in Lake Forest. They are a wake-up call. Perhaps the "tawdriness and vulgarity" of some unhappy results such as at this original entrance to "Mellody Farm" only illustrate how much, in general, Open Lands has accomplished and how grateful the entire community should be for this group's enlightened stewardship. But both Longmeadow Lane/Savannah Court with its strident freeholders and also the east side project still illustrate the strong tide against which Open Lands and civilly- dismayed policy-makers and neighbors of new houses must paddle.

What Should Be Done?

But what should be done about the growing list of too-big, design-free piles intruding into sensitive architectural and landscape architectural areas? Before people build, somebody -- town policy-makers and implementers, realtors, sellers, contractors -- should undertake seriously to guide and educate incoming members of the community about the stewardship implied in their purchase of their Lake Forest "vacant lot." Policies -- such as we can hope will be forthcoming very soon as recommendations from the City's ad hoc committee -- urgently should address the increasingly-recognized tendency to skimping on design and maxing-out on bulk; see "Style Over Substance: Buyers Who Focus On Glitz Get Expensive But Shoddy Homes" in the Tribune, Saturday, March 29, 1997, Sect. 4, 1 and 4. The immediately-adjacent ad on p. 4 for a Lake Forest "design-build" firm should raise an eyebrow or two at the unintended irony: "In the Spirit of the Chateaux...." How can municipal policies better protect existing home owners, protect the delicate natural and design ecologies such as in the examples cited here, and encourage good new design? How can the City, the real estate community, and even the well-intentioned developers take a more assertive role in packaging the design-permit-build process to promote, with vigor, good design -- through policies, through service pricing structures, and through education? How can we avoid having inferior materials, including new man-made or plastic-related ones untested by decades of lakeside winters, piled up in the midst of masterpieces of classic stone, slate, terra cotta, brick, concrete, tile, wood, and hand-wrought metalwork? How can the community rein in more effectively the self-assured and even well-meaning or unwitting -- though woefully insensitive -- developers and their backers, as in the Longmeadow Lane/Savannah Court debacle or as in last year's equally-egregiously over-scaled and under-designed Deer Trail project off Green Bay? Many, with regret, agreed that the senior-housing project proposed for Laurel Avenue was too close to estate zoning with an incompatible use. But nothing in Lake Forest's policies or review process has prevented the disruptive overbuilding of the old Hubbard property just north of Laurel, now Deer Trail: at the heart of the new Green Bay Road National Register Historic District an even worse disservice to the community. Does the design-build combination within one firm, replacing the traditional separation between the architect and the building contractor, necessarily drive down the quality -- for the homeowner and for the adjacent community?

Lake Forest is not unique in facing this troubling phenomenon, as the recent Tribune story illustrates. But this community has much more to lose -- a world-class heritage of landscape and architectural design artistry, a natural and built environment handed down and improved for a century and a half. It approaches being a cultural, ecological, and real-estate-value melt-down now to continue to allow the community's most sensitive sites in historic estate areas to be permitted away, million-dollar sliver by million-dollar sliver. Lake Forest has done better than Glencoe, which allowed a tall and narrow (vertical), developer-styled, classic-vocabulary (?) house to drop into the middle of a delicate, world-class, Frank-Lloyd-Wright-designed Prairie-School (horizontal) small community. And Lake Forest has done better than Highland Park, which made the New York Times last November over its infill problems -- symbolized by the wanton destruction of a century-old rare specimen tree from the arboretum built by an associate member of the original Lake Forest Garden Club, known then as the Garden Club of Illinois.
But Lake Forest has not lived up to its own world-class past, the heritage passed onto it by its visionary, innovative founders and by earlier generations of Armours, Shaws, Bennetts, Smiths, Donnelleys, and their friends and allies. Their descendants can't carry on alone, without the support and commitment of opinion-leaders and of a critical mass of the community.

Today Lake Forest very much is at risk. The ad hoc committee of the City originally set up to look at the problems of tear-downs should in its recommendations deal with the larger picture, of which high-profile tear-downs are only one aspect: the insensitive Oklahoma-land-rush character of recent and current estate-area infill development, east and west. Does the City have staff even close to adequate in numbers, taste and will to deal with the scope of the problem or problems? Can't the cost of getting the upper hand on this problem be born more by those who would make sweeping changes in density for their own profit or advantage (personal gratification) -- especially when not retaining for themselves separate, approved (much less licensed) architectural and landscape architectural expertise? Should not all design work in town, architectural and landscape architectural, be by state-licensed and locally-vetted professionals, at least within historic estate areas? How can the community create incentives for would-be builders of new homes to hire up-front excellent design expertise, to save time, money and aesthetic/environmental loss for everyone down the line? As the current rolling docket of expensive new intrusions barrels along on track, local leadership needs support, encouragement, good ideas and attentive interest from the widest possible share of the community as it seeks the means to cope.

Returning to contemplation of the Longmeadow Lane/Savannah Court group's problems also prompts a few observations and suggestions. These persons, demonstrably successful in other realms, can band together and form an organization, initially to learn more about what appears to be a new field for them: living in what American Studies scholar Leo Marx notably labelled the "middle landscape," between country and city, in his important 1964 book, The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America (Oxford Univ. Press). Just as they would research the most promising securities or the best specialist medical doctors for other thorny challenges, in this situation the group could read up on architecture, landscape architecture, and history to educate themselves for decision-making and for choosing appropriate professional expertise: one of their bigger investments, after all.

Though apparently made in haste in this case, these imprudent building decisions can be ameliorated. Possible follow-up approaches include hiring one appropriately-trained and experienced architect and one landscape architect collaboratively to advise the whole group both on reducing the glaring visual disparity among their places and also on general collective (vs. individual or rogue) beautification. The emphasis should be, as it was especially for the founding few generations of this community, on cooperation and restraint. The Lake Forest Foundation for Historic Preservation, in addition to welcoming them as members, could suggest appropriate architects. Stephen Cristy, also in addition to signing them up as Open Lands members, could suggest landscape designers.* In addition, the programs of the Lake Forest/Lake Bluff Historical Society warrant Longmeadow-Road/Savannah-Court residents' joining that organization, too, to enhance the group's sense of shared purpose with the larger community.

History Repeats Itself

Indeed, history repeats itself. In the 1916 book entitled Lake Forest: Art and History Edition, American Communities Series (donated to the Lake Forest College library by recent mayor Rhett Butler) Lake Road is described by local historian John J. Halsey as built up by 1900. Today, these late-nineteenth-century frame or brick structures essentially all have been superceded by better-designed, permanent places of the Country Place Era (1893-1933): significant architecture by Shaw, Adler, Lindeberg, Stanley Anderson, and Ralph Milman. Houses built in the 1880s were gone by the 1910s and 1920s along Lake and Mayflower Roads: after a third of century. These Queen Anne homes were built in haste and before taste raised the standards concerning classic and historical style after the early 1890s. Soon they were embarrassments to the increasingly-refined owners: tawdry and vulgar, by Parsons' standards. First, though, landscape gardeners such as the Olmsteds and here especially Simonds and the Olmsted-trained Warren Manning advised clients to plant lush shrubbery, trees and, on their walls, ivy to downplay the rough edges of their houses and to improve the transition to their remarkable natural settings. Now this spring Lake Forest Library has added an attractive new book on selecting and growing ivies! Gardening in general has surged in popularity. As taste on Longmeadow Lane, on Savannah Court and in town improves again the ghosts of Simonds, Jensen and their enlightened "Mellody Farm" clients, the J. Ogden Armours, may yet rest more easily over the very troubled parcel their Waukegan-Road entrance gate area has become.

Improving taste and sensitivity to the quality of the designed built and natural environments here should, as it did a century ago, swing builders -- clients and professionals -- away from that which risks being labelled tawdry and vulgar and that which tends to dominate nature. In the place of the present unhealthy trend should emerge a movement toward a more balanced, respectful relationship to the surroundings -- here a remarkable architectural and landscape inheritance of first-rate historical importance. The alternative -- continued unchecked deterioration of the quality, site sensitivity, and low density of building in historically estate areas -- will result in the equivalent of poisoning this community, to employ Market-Square-builder Shaw's term. Further unchecked development will then doom Lake Forest to a mediocrity or worse which would threaten the community's fundamental value, the high quality which has preserved it as Chicago's leadership suburb for almost a century and a half. The effect of this alternative on local real estate values, the values of places both mediocre and also those good to outstanding, would be highly negative. American urban history is littered with tales of former elite neighborhoods which gradually eroded themselves into mediocrity and, ultimately, oblivion. For those inclined to read novels, Booth Tarkington's The Magnificent Ambersons (1918) and Lake Forest's own Arthur Meeker's Prairie Avenue (1949) can bring dramatic interest to this otherwise clinical subject. But little could be more dramatic than architect Shaw's own words -- rich in morbid similitude.

The community should follow with interest, concern, and encouragement the May report to the Council of the City's ad hoc committee. Also, the community should encourage civic leadership to restore the rigor to the review processes of the town's planning, zoning and building-review committees, to turn them into more effective gatekeepers and protectors of the uncommon historic, natural, and architectural character and quality of this remarkable community. This town's future as "a special place" -- one where from its 1850s beginning the tone has been set by nature, by art and by restraint -- very much is at risk, as it was a century ago. If -- gentle reader -- you think this writer is exaggerating, please drive along Longmeadow Lane, Lake Forest's worst block ever, and then re-read Howard Shaw's timely observations quoted here, above.

*For the names of appropriate landscape designers in this area also see v. 5, no. 2 (Winter, 1997) of The Weedpatch Gazette: The Chicago Region's Fine Landscape & Garden Resource Guide. This issue is devoted to "Historic Landscapes: Creating a Period Garden, Illinois Style; Part II: 1870-1935 — Including a List of Landscape Designers Experienced in Period Landscapes...." The list is on p. 10 of this issue, though other appropriate designers are mentioned and contribute throughout the issue. Useful, too, is Christopher Vernon's Article, "Prairie School Expression," pp. 5, 7 and 8. Contact publisher and editor Rommy Lopat at 815-678-6005 (phone and fax) for more information.

Arthur Miller
April 14, 1997