These are interesting times for Oak Park. Although we have always thought well of ourselves as one of the few integrated suburbs and all, it seems that the rest of the world has joined us in our good opinion. Soaring housing prices and an influx of national retailers (remember when Marshall Field’s left Oak Park?) are evidence of our desirability.
As a result, there is a predictable?#34;even inevitable?#34;conflict between the old and the new. The story about the people who wanted to build a new front porch and the disappointment of some over the Hoppe Building’s demise are recent examples of this conflict. (By the way, am I the only one who never heard of the Hoppe Building? Where is it?) I have become interested in this business of what buildings you keep and which you can throw away.
And, so, I did 15 minutes of exhaustive research on the subject. Did you know that there are three nationally recognized Historic Districts in Oak Park?#34;the Ridgeland/Oak Park Historic District, the Frank Lloyd Wright Prairie School of Architecture District (try fitting that on a t-shirt) and the Gunderson Historic District? A third of all houses are in these historic districts, including our very first home at 544 S. Clarence Ave. I didn’t even know we were living in the Gunderson Historic District. If I had known that, I wouldn’t have urinated in a drunken stupor off my back porch there when I celebrated something. (I forgot what it was). The reason there is a Gunderson Historic District is that some fella named George Gunderson built a whole bunch of houses that looked alike at the same time. Sounds like a subdivision to me. I can’t believe that we moved from a historic district to a non-historic district. What a dope.
You can go online and read all about what it takes to be a historic district or a historic landmark. It all seems quite subjective. There is one objective criterion. Your house has to be 50 years old. Are there any houses in Oak Park that aren’t 50 years old? If you achieve the designation, mean boys can’t come to your house and tear it down; you get free technical assistance from preservation specialists (cool); you can “maintain Oak Park’s quality life and increase the economic viability of the Village’s tourism economy”; and the best part?#34;you receive a bronze designation plaque.
I’m going to apply for Historic Landmark status for 1227 Belleforte Ave., where I have lived since 1987. It is over 50 years old. There is a lot of historic significance to it. It was designed by an architect who died. There is, on the property the most expensive, least used, hot tub in all of Oak Park. My friend Steve Crane has been to our house, and he played golf with Bill Clinton one time. When District 97 passed a referendum in the late 1980s, it hosted a big celebration and everyone acted crazy. So, I think you will have to agree I got at least a chance.
By the way, if our house achieves Historic Landmark status, I promise to do nothing to change its appearance. Ever. Except cut the grass. At least every couple of weeks.