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Participants at this year's annual Historical Society of Oak Park-River Forest's housewalk will get it all.
On April 21, the historical society's Glimpses of Oak Park: Then and Now housewalk, will offer a peak into seven historic Oak Park homes, highlighting the dwellings as they are and as they were when they were first built.
Historical Society President Kelli Kline says there is a diverse selection of homes on this year's tour.
"We have four homes that are classified as Victorian and three that are classified as Arts and Crafts Style," she explains. "One of the homes, the John Seaman Home, is open to the public for the first time. The historical society considers it the most intact Victorian in the area.
"We also have several houses that are an eclectic mix. The historical society wants people to see how people live today in these historical houses."
Kline and her husband Tom have worked tirelessly over the past decade to restore their 1887 Queen Anne Victorian on Grove Avenue. Using old photos of their home's interior and exterior, the Klines have faithfully recreated its original feel, from the front porch and Victorian era plantings in the garden to countless interior details.
"I want people to walk into my kitchen and think that it's original to the house. We have a combination of things throughout the home that are either original or antiques and have worked to bring back the period-appropriate details," says Kline. "This is the first time our home has been open to the public since all of the rooms have been completed."
Across the street from the Kline house, Elizabeth and Ed Amstutz own the John Seaman Home, designed by Fidelke and Ellis in 1894. Seaman earned his fortune in the barrel making business, and the woodwork in the house reflects the craft.
Elizabeth says it was the detailed woodwork that added to the home's appeal when they purchased it in 2006.
"Part of the reason we fell in love with the house was the woodwork. It has never been painted, and each room features a different type of wood. The builders matched the wood on the pocket doors to the room which the door faced."
The 18-room home's construction was documented in an 1895 issue of the Oak Park Vindicator. The article mentions the home cost an eye-opening $17,000 to build at the time. It also details the wood used in each room from the curly beach in the front living room, white oak in the dining room, mahogany in the library, butternut in the sewing room and Georgia pine in the kitchen. The detailed millwork atop the windows in each room includes a carved wreath design that is used throughout the home.
Kline notes that the Classical Revival Style home was influenced by the 1893 World's Fair.
"When the home was built it was painted all white on the outside, like the buildings in the Columbian Exposition. The wreath designs and the ionic columns throughout are also harbingers of the Classical Revival Style."
The library houses one of six original fireplaces and mantles. Mahogany built-in bookcases and a stained glass window featuring the lamps of knowledge with stacks of books are clues to the room's original use. The impressive dining room also features original built-in cabinetry, millwork with ribbon and shield motifs and painted murals with a fruit theme. Throughout the first floor, three of the ceilings still wear their original painted canvas designs.
Perhaps most unusual for a home of this magnitude are the 19th century finishes that remain in the kitchen. Although subsequent owners modernized the space, much original detail was left behind. The built-in ice box on one wall now functions as storage for the Amstutz family, while the servant's entrance at the rear still bears the door the iceman used to fill it. The new range is set in the cove made for the original oven and still sports the glazed brick tile from the home's first construction.
"This is one of those houses that people walk by and love to look at," says Kline of the Seaman Home. "They are captivated by its size.
"This year, we have a really nice mix of homes within four blocks of each other."
Answer Book 2016
To view the full print edition of the Wednesday Journal 2016 Answer Book, please click here.
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