“The McCormick estate sat empty for 20 years as one development plan after another foundered.  Meanwhile, vandals plundered its imported marble and woodwork.  In one particularly ruinous incident, a group of Boy Scouts camping nearby staged a mock battle in the house, using their Scout hatchets to destroy doors, woodwork and marble carvings.”




Excerpt from: Power, Privilege and Place: The Geography of the American Upper Class by Stephen R. Higley

When Cyrus H. McCormicks brother Harold married Edith Rockefeller, it was hailed in the press as the “marriage of the century,” uniting the Standard Oil fortune and the International Harvester fortune. Harold immediately began construction of a 44-room lakefront mansion, Villa Turicum, adjacent to his brothers Walden. At Villa Turicum, one could choose between taking an elevator down nine stories to a lakefront beach house or descending a winding double staircase with a cascading fountain between the steps to a stunningly beautiful pool hanging four stories above Lake Michigan. This was a choice that was seldom made, as “the marriage of the century” broke up before the house was used. It was rarely occupied, and the two-million dollar home, its appraised three million dollars worth of contents, and 206 lakefront acres were sold at the county sheriffs sale in October 1933 for $51,524.







WELCOME to Villa Turicum. These pages are devoted to the esoteric lost estate of Edith Rockefeller McCormick. I’ve included collections of features, photographs, and links about anything pertaining to this enigmatic place. Please return for another visit as I am always updating the site.

I think there is no better way to begin than with an article that was written in 1930, just two years before Edith’s death and the slow demise of Villa Turicum:


Lake Forest, Illinois

By F. A. CUSHING SMITH, A.S.L.A. Editor, The American Landscape Architect
June 1930





Four beautiful elms grace the long greensward of the mall that leads to the residence at "Villa Turicum."


     "VILLA TURICUM," the country estate of Mrs. Rockefeller McCormick, at Lake Forest, Illinois, is regarded as the finest example in America of the Italian treatment in landscape design. This notable summer home, of approximately three hundred acres, is situated on a high bluff overlooking Lake Michigan. The entire plateau, which is nearly level, and the steep bank toward the lake, are covered with a fine stand of native oak, maple, ash and hickory. The elusive and delightful pattern of the estate design has been boldly cut out of this woodland. So cleverly have the details been worked out by Charles A. Platt, the designer, that at no one point can the entire beauty of the plan be admired. Bits of ancient Italian garden ornaments, charming details in bronze and wrought iron, and original pieces of sculpture are used as accents and points of interest at the ends of long sun-flecked vistas or as the central features of the various gardens and terraces. One can almost imagine, upon a blue-skied June day, that a villa from the Italian lake region had been bodily transplanted to Illinois.




Entrance detail of Villa Turicum. The Villa was fireproof, constructed of brick overlaid with an off white stucco; the roof concrete and covered with red tile. All of the ornamental details were made of limestone. This begs one to wonder, did the house really have to be destroyed?


     The residence, which faces the western sun, is finished in stucco with green shutters, tile roof, balanced fenestration, and a stenciled cornice in bright colors. It terminates a broad mall, about one hundred feet in width and five hundred feet in length, which is reached by a long straight stretch of entrance road cut through the forest. The service wings of the house to the north are concealed by the heavy native woodland planting, which lines both sides of the approach mall. The first glimpse of the residence from the west, as it is framed by the woodland, and viewed between the arching branches of the elm trees which mark the edge of the central grass panel of the mall, is a sight never to be forgotten.




The South garden, with its fountain center, is perhaps the loveliest feature of "Villa Turicum."


     The house terrace to the east is the first of several levels that extend down to the beach. In its center there is a large marble fountain, with a bronze figure as the decorative feature. The two wings of the house almost enclose this terrace, while toward the east or lake side, the broad panorama of Lake Michigan spreads out before us.




From the sun-room to the South, there is a charming view of the fountain terrace and the stately promenade to the tea-house pavilion.


     It is on this steep bank, toward the lake, that there was completed, in 1912, a series of terraces, reached by winding ramps and steps. The terraces are marked by some beautiful pieces of sculpture, which as fountain sources have been set into niches in the easterly retaining walls of the various overlook levels. The water which originates in the fountain on the uppermost terrace reappears in a wall fountain and basin on the second terrace. This terrace, of grass, is enclosed by a balustrade, and from it we reach the next lower level by means of a semi-circular winding series of ramps. So cleverly has the width of the ramps been studied, and so easy is the incline, that neither ascending nor descending tires the visitor. At the bottom of the stairway is the level from which the marble shells form a cascade of some height. Above the cascade is a pink marble baby figure, which pours water into a lower basin, from which it reaches the mouth of a marble dolphin at the upper end of the cascades.




The second of a series of terraces that break the descent to the beach. The water which flows from this dolphin fountain has its source in the center fountain of the upper, or house, terrace.




In this, the succeeding, terrace, the water again emerges from a figure fountain and reappears as a cascade in the shell-like channel.


     Steps of marble lead down either side of the cascade. The water is so regulated that it gently follows the contours of the shells, with just a pleasing murmur. Tall, dark, pyramidal cedar and arbor-vitae make a dense impenetrable frame for this picture. The intermediate terrace, which lies between the two series of cascades, is rather narrow, with a stone flower-box and a low balustrade toward the east. At either side, the stone ramps lead down to the fountain which is the source of supply for the lower cascades. Here a pelican, guarded at each side by a grinning alligator, fills a basin and becomes the source of the quietly splashing waters of the lower cascade. At the foot of the steps, at the side of the second waterfall, is a terrace paved with brick. This forms the roof of the dressing-rooms adjacent to the marble swimming pool. The swimming pool, heavily framed by woodland planting, terminates this interesting bank treatment.




The final cascade descends from a fountain & basin featuring a pelican and twin dolphins to the bath house and swimming pool below.


:: Grounds ::









“Mrs. McC inclines to being partial to Italian style. Very glad you’re coming.”

Harold McCormick in a 1908 letter to Charles Platt





I’ve been passionately captivated with Villa Turicum for a long time. I first heard of the estate many years ago, and it’s been a quiet area of research and discovery for me ever since.

This was a fascinating and intriguing place; the incredible house that was never a home, and the estate itself, designed and executed by Charles Platt for Harold McCormick and his unusual and impetuous wife Edith.

Was it an act of love, or a futile attempt to save a marriage? After the divorce Edith kept the villa, but it was seldom, if ever used.  (She is reported to have only slept in the house once.) Although it was maintained in tip-top order should Edith decide to visit, after her death it languished in mothballs and then deteriorated until it was destroyed to develop the now common maisonettes of Lake Forest.

My goal is to continue to build and enhance this site in memory of an incredible, magic place that has a story to be told.






•(1) Home


•(2) Grounds


•(3) Interiors


•(4) Exteriors


•(5) Ruin

•(6) Today


•(7) Addendum


•(8) Blueprints






The Villa Turicum Blog

Mrs. McC

Lake Forest – Lake Bluff Historical Society


Lake Forest Preservation Foundation


The Benjamin Marshall Society

Zachary Taylor Davis





“Less than 10 years after Edith’s death, the McCormick estate already had an unmistakable aura of decline and decay. Watched over by fanciful sea creatures and headless goddesses, the footsteps of curious boys echoed in moldy, empty rooms.  Oddly enough, the gold-plated fixtures in the many bathrooms were still intact.”





















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