River Forest survey of housing nearly complete

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Deborah Kadin

Contributing Reporter

River Forest's diverse architecture was "on display" last week as two local historic preservationists talked about the community's unique building styles during a lecture in downtown Chicago.

The talk -- The Architecture of River Forest: From Carpenter Gothic to Mid-Century -- was May's Preservation Snapshot, presented by Landmarks Illinois. The program was at the Chicago Cultural Center on Michigan Avenue.

About 100 people went along on Power Point "tour," led by Doug Gilbert and Jean Guarino.

Gilbert, a member of the Oak Park Plan Commission, leads a firm that focuses on preserving and restoring historic architecture. Guarino was the architectural historian with the Lakota Group, a well-known Chicago firm that concentrates on urban planning and historic preservation.

Gilbert and Guarino are consultants hired by Lakota as part of a team working with the River Forest village government and the Historic Preservation Commission on an architectural and historic survey of homes in town.

The talk showed the different styles of the community – from Frank Lloyd Wright and other members of the Prairie School of architecture to the work of the Buurma Brothers and more. Homes in the Queen Anne, Italianate, Tudor Revival, French Norman and other architectural styles were also highlighted.

One of the many highlights was a collection of 20 Prairie Style homes on the 700 block of William Street. The structures have been credited to Harry Robinson, a designer in Wright's Chicago office from 1914 to 1917.

"This is special. I'm not personally aware of that many Prairie Style homes in one tight cluster," Gilbert said.

The program touched on, but was unrelated, to the River Forest Architectural and Historical Survey, which is being completed.

Begun in mid-2012 and completed recently, the survey will identify those structures with significant and historic character, Gilbert said. Baseline information will be provided on each.

When it's completed, a person can see when a home was built, its architectural style, along with other data.

"It'll be a great way to educate the community about the architecture in River Forest and promote the idea of historic preservation and the quality of architecture in River Forest," Gilbert said.

The multi-faceted effort will become a tool that will help assess whether a home should be protected and landmarked.

Three homes in River Forest are on the National Register of Historic Places: the William H. Winslow House and Stable, 515 Auvergne Pl.; the William H. Hatch House, 309 Keystone Ave.; and the William E. Drummond House, 559 Edgewood Pl.

There is one national historic district in River Forest – an area roughly bordered by Thatcher Avenue on the west, Harlem Avenue on the east, Chicago Avenue on the north and Lake Street on the south, Gilbert said.

The survey is being tweaked and will be before the commission soon, Gilbert said. The effort, which then will be presented to the village board, already has the endorsement of Village President Catherine Adduci, who attended Thursday's program.

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