Rewarding the work is recognizing the work

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Garret Eakin

There is something exceptionally satisfying about discovering what was original to a historic property, conceiving how to recreate the detail and getting it built with integrity. That's why recognition is key to emphasizing to the public how important and unselfish preservation is in our village.

We know that buildings must change to survive. One of the goals of the Historic Preservation Commission is to manage, change and limit the revisions. The annual awards the commission presents become an educational tool to inform the public and encourage more participation. The work is intended by its nature to be quiet, respectful and restrained, with the objective of protecting and maintaining the historic materials. Practical improvements should add to the value of the property as well as to the value of the property of its neighbors. New roofs or kitchens, repaired windows and facades, more efficient energy and green improvements all contribute to preserving our community.

Six projects received awards in 2012, representing some of the best preservation work, ranging from restoration of lost architectural details to the re-use of vacant storefronts. At 128 Chicago Ave., a 107-year-old building façade was restored to accommodate the charming Bee Home and Garden store owned by Colleen Maia. The new design is architecturally appropriate while bringing vitality and new life to this underutilized storefront.

Another storefront, at 130 S. Oak Park Ave., was restored and expanded by well-known architect Frank Heitzman (with Construction Solutions as general contractor). The 1926 building was repurposed as a senior services facility containing offices, meeting rooms and a dining room for the Oak Park Township. It is wonderful to see the sensitively recreated storefront and awnings open up the interior, opening light and views into the dining room.

At 200-224 S. Maple Ave., preservation architect Doug Gilbert and the condominium association conducted a study on whether to repair or replace 850 windows. The study compared replacement with aluminum-clad wood windows or aluminum windows, and determined that it would be 19 percent less expensive in the long run to paint and maintain the original windows. A complete rehabilitation of the windows was done by Historic Home and Window Restoration of Aurora, providing a compelling example of appropriate restoration work to this 45-unit building.

Close to the Maple project, the Park District of Oak Park, with Garapolo/Maynard Architects, has completed a thoughtful restoration of the historic 1901 iron fence defining Mills Park. New welcoming entrances were designed to provide better access to the surrounding neighborhood. The park landscaping and paths were redesigned, completing the improvements to this wonderful asset.

The two-flat at 209-211 S. Elmwood Ave. was designed by E.E. Roberts in 1905 in the Prairie Style. The owners, Vivian O'Dell and Collette Morrow, working with Fortune Restoration, researched to find the original design which was obscured by a complete wrapping of aluminum siding. The elegant façade was restored with an appropriate color scheme of the period, creating something to be very proud of.

Also on Elmwood at 701 South, architect Joseph Trojanowski, working with owners Alex Harris and Stefanie Glover, completed the restoration and addition to a 1907 Dutch Colonial Revival residence. Historic photographs were vital in the design and reconstruction of the original porch. The aluminum siding was removed to reveal the historic wood siding and shingles which were repaired or replaced, stripped and repainted. A wonderful recreation was completed by P.A.T. Contracting.

These architects, contractors and owners, working unselfishly and in concert, deserve recognition for their fine restoration work.

Oak Parker Garret Eakin is a practicing architect, preservation commissioner and adjunct professor at the School of the Art Institute.

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