It goes without saying that steampunk has a unique relationship with history, both re-imagining it, appreciating it and disseminating it. Thusly, it should come as no surprise that those who play a part in keeping various aspects of history alive also find themselves attracted to the steampunk movement.
Pleasant Home is a landmark, early Prairie Style mansion that was designed by architect George Maher, a man who designed well over 40 buildings throughout Chicagoland, many of which are now registered as historic. But it was millionaire banker, John W. Farson, who built it. The original estate boasted gardens, coach houses and a fountain. The house itself also had a ballroom, game rooms and even an outdoor stage… on the roof.
It was quite the party place, but, unfortunately, Mr. Farson died in 1910, heralding an end to the local revelries.
What’s funny about this, is that was when it got interesting. in 1911 Herbert Mills, of Mill’s Novelty Company, purchased the mansion and spread throughout it his whimsical and marvelous inventions, most of which were coin operated amusement machines that, for a nickel or a dime, would play music (on real instruments) or offer any number of games. To add an additional bit of “steampunkery” to it all, it was shortly after the Worlds’ Columbian Exposition of 1893 that young Mills built the first coin-operated automatic slot machine that would eventually lead to Mills’s penny arcades becoming institutions of turn of the century America.
In 1939, ten years after Herbert’s death, the family sold the house to the Oak Park Park District, who still owns and operates it today. Today you can attend a variety of events and shows here as well as get tours of the home. Not only that but you can also join us for Watch Chains & Lace, our monthly summer event, which just happens to be happening this Sunday, August 28th.