Civil War Ball to Benefit Farnsworth Mansion Museum Project

Article excerpt

Byline: Rachel Baruch Yackley

"... one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came."

- President Abraham Lincoln,

Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865.

You don't have to look like Scarlett O'Hara to be the belle at the Civil War Ball taking place next month right here in St. Charles.

Step back in time to the 1860s and enjoy the music and dance of that era, along with a buffet-style dinner, in a benefit for the Farnsworth Mansion Foundation.

St. Charles dentist Steve Smunt and his band, The Century Air Minstrels, will provide live musical entertainment throughout the evening.

"Basically Irish music; the music they play is wonderful to dance to. The band even brings a dance instructor," said Kim Malay, president of the foundation.

Even if you are a novice, feel free to join in the Hat Dance, the Virginia Reel or a waltz or two.

Each year, the Farnsworth Mansion Foundation hosts this entertaining and romantic evening to raise money for the Farnsworth Mansion Civil War Museum. The initial focus is the $2 million project to reconstruct the Farnsworth Mansion.

According to the Web site www.farnsworthmansion.com, the original Farnsworth Mansion was built in 1860 by Gen. John F. Farnsworth, became Mount St. Mary's Academy in 1907, and in 1971 was sold to Valley Lutheran High School, which eventually closed. At one point it was even used as a thrift shop.

Due to disrepair and erosion, the mansion was demolished in 1993.

In February 2000, the St. Charles City Council approved the rebuilding of the mansion on the south end of Langum Park, located along Route 25. Once know as Camp Kane, this park was a Civil War training camp for the 8th Illinois Cavalry, formed by Farnsworth, who owned the property.

The Farnsworth Mansion Foundation is hoping to break ground and begin rebuilding the mansion in the spring of 2005. The mansion will be home to a Civil War museum.

Malay explained that "the exterior will basically reconstruct what the mansion looked like before Mount St. Mary's took over. Key interior features will be replicated. The first floor of the museum will have some displays, and upstairs will be a revolving display and space for meetings and teas."

"A focus of the museum is to have it be interactive. It's going to have a lot of educational aspects," said Malay, who is inspired by the interactive multimedia exhibits in Cantigny, near where she grew up and where her grandfather was a curator. …