River Forest Women's Club on the market

After operating as a club for more than 90 years, the building at 526 Ashland Ave. was saved from demolition

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By Devin Rose

Staff Reporter

The former River Forest Women's Club, which has since been renovated and converted to a single-family home is on the market.

The two-story home at 526 Ashland Ave. is listed for $1.575 million by Baird & Warner. Built in the Prairie architectural style, it comprises 6,000 square feet with three bedrooms, four bathrooms and a theater space with a stage, the listing says.

The property had an uncertain future around 2003, when membership at the women's club was dwindling and the club was planning to donate the building to the River Forest Park District, said Suzanne Germann, director of grants and easements for Landmarks Illinois, a historic preservation organization.

"We weren't confident the park district was fiscally responsible enough to take care of the property," Germann said, and it ended up on the organization's 2005 statewide list of properties in danger of being destroyed.

That same year, Ellen and Paul Coffey spoke to Landmarks about buying the property. During the renovation, the former basement space was turned into the main living room, Germann said.

The Coffeys also had work done to the exterior, changed some rooms into bedrooms and opened up the back wall to an open patio. The original woodwork in the auditorium space stayed intact.

The rehabilitation transformed the house into a model of sustainable design by implementing geothermal heating and cooling systems, solar water heating units and a conventional boiler, the listing says.

The Coffeys and Marcee Gavula, of Baird & Warner, told Wednesday Journal they did not wish to comment for this story.

After renovations, Landmarks put an easement on the property, which safeguards it from being torn down and calls for a review of any alterations. It is one of about 550 preservation easements the group holds, but Germann said this property is different because it applies to both the interior and exterior

The building was designed in 1913 by William Drummond, the chief draftsman of Frank Lloyd Wright, according to Landmarks' website. Drummond's wife had been an early member of the private women's club that operated the building for over 90 years. The costs of ongoing maintenance had become a financial burden for the club, leading to the Coffeys' purchase of the building.

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