In praise of preserving history

The 2013 Historic Preservation Awards

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By Garret Eakin

These awards for outstanding preservation work within Oak Park represent the best projects of the year. Those of us who work with historic properties realize that preservation is a humbling pursuit. It is part detective work, sleuthing through the available evidence and clues as to what was original and what was changed or replaced. It is scholarly, researching the historic style, understanding the language of the style, available materials and technology of the period. 

Finally, it is about the skill of applying the research and logic to help guide our drawings that describe a structure that has integrity, consistency, and historic clarity. This interest in preserving our wonderful stock of buildings is inspiring, expressing who we are and how we want to be remembered.

Eleven domestic buildings were visited and selected to be recognized by five seasoned preservation experts. They are all single-family residences in a variety of styles: Queen Anne, Prairie School, Dutch Colonial to Bungalow. The scope of the work varied from porch and siding restorations, stucco restorations, interior and gut renovations to substantial additions with new garages. 

What they have in common, is the concern for quality and sensitive restoration work. People (architects, owners, contractors) who love to work on old homes tend to be more interested in the process of restoration, the interesting artifacts and how to invent without subverting the integrity of the structure. Pride is the word that best describes the smile that lights up as they relate stories about the project. Their home.

At 178 N. Taylor Ave., Dan Moroney restored the siding on the 1895 Dutch Colonial home and earlier garage. The structure had been covered with asphalt siding, which was completely removed to reveal the original surfaces. Wood siding and shingles underneath were found to be in good condition and were restored and repainted with more appropriate colors of the period. The original siding on the garage was also restored, and shingles were added to the gable and dormer to more closely tie it to the house and establish a unified composition. The completed project resulted in a dramatic transformation of this charming and unique historic home. 

The Beachy House at 238 Forest Ave., designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1906, has been restored over the past nine years through a number of projects designed by the well known firm, Vinci/Hamp Architects. Owners Alec Harris and Carolina Song have overseen restoration projects that include replicating light fixtures from the original drawings; stripping woodwork; remodeling the master bathroom; reframing sagging bays; restoring casement windows; installing lead-coated copper liners in the exterior concrete pea gravel chimney cap, water table and coping; moving the gas meter out of sight from the street; replacing two dome skylights with flat ones; and roof repair. The visible change has not been dramatic, yet the cumulative restoration projects have brought back the beautiful shine to the detail and finishes of this classic Wright home. 

At 301 Clinton Ave., Brad and Lauren Wolven restored a beautiful 1895 Queen Anne two-story home employing S. Ryan Construction as the General Contractor. The project received an award for a sensitive rehabilitation in the Ridgeland/Oak Park Historic District. The front porch had significant structural issues and the owners wanted to create a screened porch on one side, but appropriate to the historic style. The final work resulted in the rebuilding of many of the important characteristics and details while creating a sensitive screened porch and reopening the bottom for access and safety. 

At 306 S. Humphrey Ave., David Pope and Beth Houle have completed a thoughtful and sensitive restoration of this 1903 American Foursquare. Rosanne McGrath was the architect with Loop Construction and Remodeling. The project included a rear addition and a compatible new front porch. To gain more usable space, a dormer was added to the north roof slope, a masonry fireplace and chimney was added and new siding, shingles and wood windows were restored. 

It is wonderful to have so many qualified and varied projects to provide inspiration to us all, whether it be a new kitchen or roof or new paint scheme. Oak Park will always have a great demand for homeowners who unselfishly work to improve our building stock. 

This awards program is intended to recognize their fine work and encourage others to follow in their path. Preservation has tremendous value to our community. 

Oak Parker Garret Eakin is a practicing architect, a member of the village's Historic Preservation Commission, and adjunct professor at the School of the Art Institute. 

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Jason Strong  

Posted: February 4th, 2014 9:47 AM

It makes me so happy to see people fight for the preservation of historical sights like this! Makes me want to get up and do something about local sights in my community. Thanks so much for sharing this! Jason |

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