10/17/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Farnsworth House: Saving A Masterpiece

What to do with Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth House, the lovely one-story pavilion of steel and glass that the neighboring--but not very neighborly--Fox River just can't seem to leave alone.

In 1996, the raging Fox cracked through the house's huge plate-glass windows and 5 1/2 feet of water roared in. Last fall, the river came close to invading the house but subsided just in time. Then, last weekend, the river poured in once more, with 18 inches of water gushing over the travertine marble floors and steaming the place up.

"Right now, it's like a terrarium in there," Jim Peters, the president of Landmarks Illinois, the Chicago-based advocacy group that manages the house for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, said Monday.

The recurrent flooding raises the issue of how to protect a modernist masterpiece that the National Trust paid millions to acquire at a suspense-filled auction five years ago.

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