Nosy neighbors 2013: One last look

We just can't get enough of homes in Oak Park and River Forest

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By Ken Trainor

Staff writer

When real estate is your community's biggest industry (after dry cleaning), when you live in virtual architectural theme parks, you just can't help being … curious. 

In fact, you can't help becoming a house connoisseur — almost a voyeur.

Hence this section (informally known as "Nosy Neighbors"), where we profile some very interesting homes throughout any particular year. And 2013 was no exception.

So before 2014 moves any further along, we thought we'd take one more look at our annual "parade of homes."

Feb. 13: The George Furbeck Home, 223 N. Euclid Ave., Frank Lloyd Wright's exercise in symmetry, went back on the market earlier this year (after being off for 13 months) for $949,000. The home is known for its octagonal turrets with distinctive brickwork and art glass.

Feb. 20: Another distinctive home, the Frank Long House on Linden Avenue, was included on last year's Wright Plus housewalk for the first time in 30 years. It stands out because of its wavy roof design, which simulates a thatched-roof English cottage — a very large English cottage.

May 8: The Louisa and Harry Goodrich House was also featured on Wright Plus. Representing Wright's early period (1896), it combines elements of the emerging Prairie style into a more traditional Victorian frame. Harry Goodrich was an inventor who "made and lost fortunes," so he wasn't afraid to take a flyer on Frank.

May 22: Another familiar Wright masterpiece, the Heurtley House, was made available to public view in May to raise funds for the Historical Society of OP-RF. As a bonus, Oak Park resident Chris Ware, one of the hottest illustrators in the country (who frequently pens New Yorker covers), contributed a "time-warp" poster of the home with "portals" showing its past lives.

June 12: And lest anyone think Wright homes are mere museum pieces, Carollina Song and Alec Harris, owners of the Peter Beachy House on Forest Avenue, are proving you can actually live and raise a family there. "One of the things we really like about the house," said Alec, "is that it functions for family and is not just an art piece."

Aug. 7: The brothers Buurma built highly-prized homes and one of them, at 1138 Franklin Ave., went on the market for $1.5 million plus. This one represents an eclectic mix of styles, including Art Deco and Spanish. The realtors called it "Mediterranean." In local real estate, "Buurma-built" is a point of pride.

Aug. 14: Another landmark home, the Edwin H. Ehrman House, 410 N. Kenilworth Ave., was designed by architect Lawrence Buck, an early Prairie-style designer. He built homes throughout the Chicago area, but only a handful in Oak Park and River Forest. The structure features Arts & Crafts flourishes.

Sept. 25: Pleasant Home Foundation's annual fall house tour featured no less than Oak Park's oldest home, now owned by Michael and Laura Thompson. The foundation didn't have a tough sell. Laura is the former executive director of the foundation. And the home is located on Home Street, just a few doors down from Pleasant Home. The house dates all the way back to 1852.

Oct. 9: R. Harold Zook is another less well known yet prominent architect, who built interesting homes, many of which included his trademark "spider's-web art glass motif." One of his homes on Jackson Avenue in River Forest, went on the market for $1.3 million plus. Zook, who worked out of Hinsdale and designed the Pickwick Theatre in Park Ridge, favored Cotswold-style cottages with Tudor styling.

Nov. 13: Everyone's favorite testament to tasteful excess, the Grunow/Accardo mansion, 915 Franklin in River Forest, complete with swimming pool and bowling alley, was featured on the Infant Welfare Holiday Housewalk, and why not? They also have the biggest holiday lights display of any house in either village. The home, formerly the abode of notorious mobster, Tony "The Tuna" Accardo, is another Buurma-built home.

Dec. 4: Even among Wright-designed homes, the William H. Winslow House, 515 Auvergne Place in River Forest, stands out, and it, too, went on the market — for a cool $2.4 million. The 5,036-square-foot house was the first one Wright designed as an independent architect (1894), but he wasn't shy about borrowing influences from his former boss, Louis Sullivan. The current owners have owned the home since 1958.

Dec. 11: And one more to fill out our distinguished lineup: A home on North East Avenue in Oak Park combines Chicago-style and Prairie-style influences. The original owner, Vernon Skiff, however, did not choose Wright for the design. He went with George Nimmons and William Fellows, protégées of Daniel Burnham. The owners listed the house at $2.2 million.

We're looking forward to what we'll get to see in 2014.


Reader Comments

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Amy Williams  

Posted: January 11th, 2014 2:56 PM

If you're concerned about the admin bldg, come to the 1/14 D97 board mtg. What was annoying from the 12/14 forum was how D97 said their bldg was so awful but then in the next breath talked about selling it. Why did they let it get so run down to begin with? If it's so bad why do they expect anyone to buy it? What if it sits vacant 4ever, worsening Madison? D97, you do not need a new $10m bldg w/ underground pkg for yr 28 emp - how about choosing the least expensive workable solution 4 a change?!


Posted: January 10th, 2014 6:42 PM

Flashback is right. I was in the meetings too. Parent teacher night, science fairs with Ipad in every hand. The district isn't hurting - they didn't want to reign in costs. So instead threatened the Arts. Again. Now it's the admin building. Roberts says its a safety issue, you can't put peoples lives in danger. We live in costly housing requiring maintenance and to be sure the old amps and the lead paint is a safety issue for us too. But sadly no free upgrade for us.


Posted: January 10th, 2014 6:10 PM

Nice cheap shot, Flashback. I sat in those pre-referendum meetings and programs would have been decimated with a no vote. Or else class sizes would have been between 30-40. D97 was very serious, no matter what you think. But it did pass and now you can only throw stones.


Posted: January 10th, 2014 5:13 PM

Every time I see a pic of Carollina Song in her nice FLW house, I get annoyed at her for raising our taxes to support the arts that were never in danger to begin with. And she got a job out of the ruse. Puke.

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