These (snow) boots were made for walking

Holiday Housewalk benefits Infant Welfare Society

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By Lacey Sikora

Contributing Reporter

When you've finally eaten your last leftover turkey sandwich and said goodbye to your Thanksgiving guests, it's time to get ready for the holiday season. Nothing helps get you in the spirit and ready for decorating and gift-giving like the Oak Park River Forest Infant Welfare Society's annual Holiday Housewalk and Market. 

Starting with an Opening Night Party on Thursday, Nov. 30 and running through Saturday, Dec. 2, the entire event gets the holidays kicked off in the true spirit of the season.

Mary Cate Kuhl, administrative chairwoman of this year's event, says that as the IWS's major fundraiser, the weekend is a critical source of funds for its Children's Clinic. 

"The clinic provides over 10,000 medical and dental visits to more than 3,400 children from over fifty one communities every year," Kuhl said. "We are able to do that because of the generosity of this community. This weekend is such a fun way to come together for the holidays in the name of helping children."

The Holiday Housewalk lets you into some of the area's finest homes for some inspiration into holiday decorating. 

Housewalk Chairwoman Sara Blair, a former pediatric nurse who has taken on a leadership role at the Infant Welfare Society, says that this year, the walk includes one River Forest and four Oak Park homes. 

"As the Infant Welfare Society enters its second century, we have a nice range of houses from the turn of the last century and one newly built home from this century," Blair said.

Homes for the holidays

Karen and Don Rosenwinkel are opening their 1906 Prairie-style stunner designed by architect Vernon Watson, of Talmadge and Watson fame. Featured in the 1907 Architectural Review, that era's version of our Architectural Digest, the home has always been significant, but required some rehabilitation when the couple purchased it over twenty years ago. 

The pair of industrial designers used their own skills and the help of Oak Park restoration architect John Thorpe to add onto the cedar-shingled home.

The makeover started with modernizing the kitchen. Although the original space was quite small and intended for servants, they took pains to keep its original style when they enlarged the space. 

Armed with photos of the original kitchen, they matched cabinet styles and used wood tones that pulled out the stunning woodwork in the rest of the home. The family of five spends a lot of its time in the large family room addition, and the couple looked to reference early 1900's Prairie style to integrate the new addition to the rest of the house.

Karen Rosenwinkel notes that the front of the home is lit by original tree of life light fixtures made of hammered brass, which her husband, a toy inventor, recreated for the addition. The skylight in the family room and arched brick fireplace were inspired by visits to the many Frank Lloyd Wright homes in the area. 

When it comes to Christmas, Rosenwinkel has plenty of things to decorate with. 

"I have tons of collections," Rosenwinkel said. "I have Santas, snowmen, nutcrackers, and a lot of mercury glass." 

The home will sport three trees with ornaments and decorations full of memories for the couple and their three grown daughters.

Rosenwinkel said that the decision to open their home for the Infant Welfare Society was an easy one. 

"We love our home, and we've spent a lot of time and energy to restore it," she said. "Not only does opening up our house show people how important it is to restore these old houses and not tear them down, but to do so for an organization like the Infant Welfare Society and help the kids is a great mission to support."

Other homes on this year's walk include a newly built Victorian-style home that features green building technology and plenty of room for two trees filled with family ornaments. 

An arts-and-crafts-style home is decorated with fresh greenery from magnolia to evergreen. Another Oak Park home, designed by E. E. Roberts, once housed a medical practice and a medical library for the original owner and his neighbor, Dr. Clarence Hemingway. In River Forest, a Prairie-style home sports beautiful art glass and a snow village on the mantle.

Blair says the generosity of the homeowners who share their homes is key to the event's success, and says that their varied decorating styles provide great inspiration for walk attendees. 

"People go with the idea of getting ideas for Christmas decorating, and the walk provides a broad range," Blair said. "From simple to over-the-top to sophisticated, you get a nice range of styles." 

Holiday market

The Holiday Market portion of the fundraiser kicks off with an opening night preview party, during which guests get a first look at vendors' wares and enjoy cocktails and appetizers. 

On Friday night, the market – held at the Nineteenth Century Club, 178 Forest Ave. --will mix it up with local bartenders from Forest Park venues sharing their favorite cocktail recipes. 

All weekend long, the market will feature a variety of vendors offering treats to give and to receive, from food specialties to clothing and jewelry. Raffle tickets give entrants the chance to win one of five complete celebration tablescapes.

The Holiday Market works hand and hand with the housewalk to provide important funds for the Infant Welfare Society's mission. 

Market Chairwoman Patti McGuiness said that while entry to the market is free on Friday and Saturday, "It's still a way for the community to give back, because for every dollar spent, a portion goes to the fund the Infant Welfare Society's Children's Clinic. It's a great feel-good event. You can get a start on your holiday shopping and know that some of your dollars are staying in the community to help children in need."

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