Views from Brushwood Farm

Morton B Ryerson_at_the_Des_Plaines
Des Plaines River at Ryerson cabin. Brushwood Farm, 1938. Photo by Edward L. Ryerson.


The Photographs of Edward L. Ryerson

and Edward Ranney, 1937 – 1974


 OPENING:  Sunday, September 7 from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.

RUNS:  September 7 – October 30, 2014

Nationally renowned photographer Edward Ranney, known for his artistry depicting the remains of ancient Peruvian cultures, spent many happy days during his youth at his grandparents’ summer home called Brushwood, at what is now Ryerson Woods.  Back then, his grandfather, Edward L. Ryerson, who donated much of his property to the Lake County Forest Preserves, took black-and-white photographs of family gatherings inside the house and nearby outdoors.  The landscape familiar to us as Ryerson Woods was known to its owners then as “Brushwood Farm.”

When Brushwood Center’s executive director Sophie Twichell asked Ranney to show his own works at an art exhibition at Brushwood Center, Ranney thought of another idea. Why not create an exhibit showing his grandfather’s and his own photos of the family’s times spent at the property?

The result: Views from Brushwood Farm: The Photographs of Edward L. Ryerson & Edward Ranney, 1937-1974, which opens Sunday, September 7 and runs through October 30.

Ranney recalls watching his grandfather take black-and-white photographs and then go into the dark room to print them and create albums still in the family’s possession today. After recently pouring through some several thousand negatives and family albums, Ranney selected some 30 photographs his grandfather took, and then selected 14 he himself took in 1972, the year after both his grandfather and grandmother, Nora Ryerson, died.

Edward Ryerson Ranney
Edward Ryerson Ranney

By then, Ranney had become a well-known photographer who had photographed extensively in Peru. But Ranney said he wanted to get back to Brushwood to take some photographs.  “It was clear to me that the house would be changed, and the furniture would be distributed. So I wanted to make a record for the family of how it looked,” he said.

“I had spent so much time there. Evoking it photographically came rather easily. I knew what elements I wanted to pick out and emphasize – the big parlor room, the sitting room used for gatherings and lectures, the relationship of the house to the surrounding landscape and the woods.  These photos convey what this place meant to us and my grandparents. The photographs show the human context of that period in life – which is very much worthy of preservation. It will help the public know the personal side of Edward Ryerson, Sr.”

Brushwood Farm, 1972. Photo by Edward Ranney.
Brushwood Farm, 1972. Photo by Edward Ranney.

Twichell said the exhibition will serve as a reminder of the Ryersons who donated their land to the forest preserve districts.  “Because of the Ryerson family, we have this beautiful space where we can present programs including art exhibitions and musical performances, as well as the outdoors where visitors can enjoy the protected native landscape and wildlife.”

Brushwood served as the Ryerson family’s summer house from the 1942 until 1972, when 279 acres of the Edward L. Ryerson Conservation Area were dedicated as an Illinois Nature Preserve.

Celebrating_30_years_logo_final - cropped

“Brushwood Center is celebrating 30 years, and it is a fitting time to reflect back on the Ryerson family’s relationship with this special landscape. Without visionaries like the Ryersons who valued the protection of this incredible high quality woodland, Ryerson Woods might not be here today for all of us to enjoy.  We are delighted to feature historic photographs taken by conservation leaders of the past,” Twichell said.

Edward Ranney has been exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Santa Fe and other museums.  Books of his photographs include Monuments of the Incas, Prairie Passage (about the Illinois and Michigan Canal), and The Lines (about the Nazca Lines in South America), just published by the Yale University Press.

Ranney will join Brushwood Center for the opening reception of the exhibition from 1 – 3 p.m., Sept. 7. The event is free and open to the public.

For more information, visit  Brushwood Center is located at: 21850 N. Riverwoods Rd., Riverwoods, IL 60015.


Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods
Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods

About Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods

Through innovative programs presented against a backdrop of stately woods where pre-settlement flora and fauna still linger, Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods seeks to build an environmental ethic in our region by offering multiple points of entry for the public to connect with nature. Brushwood Center is a nonprofit organization.



Monday to Thursday, 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Sunday, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.

Or by appointment, 847.968.3308.


Views from Brushwood Farm is partially sponsored by a grant from:






Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: