Villa Turicum

Villa Turicum sig.jpg
Lake Forest, IL
United States
Villa Turicum

Between 1908 and 1912, Charles Platt transformed a heavily wooded, 300-acre plateau above Lake Michigan into an Italianate country estate for Harold and Edith Rockefeller McCormick. Upon the suggestion of Warren Manning, Platt sited the 44-room palazzo atop a steep bluff on the parcel’s eastern edge. The extended formal entrance drive, carved through native forest, opened into a wide, 500-foot long mall lined with elms. North of this entrance mall lay the service courtyard and walled cutting gardens planted with peonies and roses. South of the house, a lawn terrace with a central fountain divided formal gardens edged with barberry hedges. The lawn terminated into woodland and a private tea house beyond. Radial paths from the lawn also led to a sculpted meadow, sunken garden with a lily pool, and a bowling green demarcated by a stone wall and balustrade. Behind the house, two sets of curving, shallow marble steps descended the steep, terraced hillside toward the beach, past marble fountains and sculptures to reach a bathhouse and large basin. The basin was fed by a water channel modeled on the one at Villa Lante.

The garden, much lauded, was featured in Architectural Record in 1924, with drawings by Ralph Rodney Root. Following Edith McCormick’s death in 1932, the property was auctioned by the city. The house lay dormant for decades, vandalized by trespassers, until it was razed in 1956. Beginning in the 1980s, the property was subdivided into three-acre lots, but significant sections of the garden survive today, restored by current owners.