Work has started on the 2005 Showcase House, the Infant Welfare Clinic fundraiser that turns a local mansion over to designers and then opens it to the public. This year’s project is Todd House, designed by Oak Park architect E. E. Roberts.

Ticketholders will have a chance to wander through the mansion’s 28 rooms from Sept. 11 to Oct. 2. This is the 34th year for the annual event, sponsored by the Oak Park-River Forest Infant Welfare Society and the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID). Each room of the historic house will be designed and furnished by more than 20 members of the Illinois chapter of ASID. Proceeds from the ticket sales will be donated to the Oak Park-River Forest Infant Welfare Clinic, 320 Lake St., which has served the medical and dental needs of local children from low income families for 87 years.

A host of additional events are planned in conjunction with the house tours. Highlights include an appearance by Joe Ruggiero, the host of HGTV’s Homes Across America, on Sept. 12, and a two-day garden extravaganza (see the sidebar for a complete list of activities).

The Prairie-influenced, Tudor Revival home at 620 N. Euclid Ave. was designed and built for Henry Caleb Todd and his family in 1904. At the time, Todd, an expert on fireproofing and insulation, was the president of Chicago Fire Proof Covering Company, headquartered in a Canal Street building in the Loop. (Rumor has it that Todd started the use of asbestos as a fire retardant building material.) The 10,000-square-foot, three-story house was built with seven bedrooms, five fireplaces, an oak-paneled dining room and a 50-foot ballroom on the third floor. It even has a room-sized, walk-in closet.

Roberts designed Todd House when he was 38 years old, after having practiced in Oak Park for 11 years. Before starting his own firm here, he worked for Solomon Spencer Beman’s architectural firm as a site superintendent in Chicago’s Pullman neighborhood. His commissions were usually for private homes and his practice grew to be the largest in Oak Park. Later in his career, Roberts moved back to Chicago and began focusing more on commercial buildings, but left more than 200 of his homes in this area.

Last weekend a “Sneak a Peek Empty House Tour” gave the public a chance to see the showcase home before the designers began their work. The Infant Welfare Society Circle 80, a group of high school students who raise nearly $1,000 each year for the clinic, also sold flower bulbs that will be ready for planting in the spring. All proceeds beyond the cost of materials”about 50 percent”will go to the Infant Welfare Society, said Darlene Pelzer, who spearheaded the event.

“The girls are very committed and certainly do their best to make this a successful fundraiser,” she said.

Make no small plans

When viewed from the outside, Todd House gives the illusion of being more modest in size than it actually is, but once inside, the house seems to go on forever. The ASID designers plan to build off a color scheme of blues, greens and golds, said Jane Levy, a River Forest interior designer who’s serving as the Showcase House design chair.

Upon entering the foyer, visitors will notice a floral pattern in the leaded, Prairie-style windows, a design that is consistently used throughout the entire house. A spiraling central staircase offers a view all the way to the third floor. Designer Leeann Heininger, co-owner of Designs of the Interior in Oak Park, is redoing this room for the tour.

“I selected the foyer because I often tell my clients it’s the most important room in the home,” she said.

Heininger plans to incorporate three pieces of Vietnamese art that belong to the owner of the home, change the light fixtures and add drapery that will set off the large foyer from the adjoining dining room. She has been giving tours for the showcase event for 14 years, but this is her first year participating on the design side in Oak Park.

“It’s important for me to do the Showcase House in my own community,” she said, “but the main thing is we’re doing it for the kids.”

Another local designer, Gail Prauss of Gail Prauss Interior Design, Ltd. in Oak Park, is doing the master bedroom. The room will feature a four-post dark mahogany bed, a fireplace and a flat screen television that will be viewable from the bed or the couch. She said she’s planning to incorporate a theme of “Asian simplicity” into the room, using calming, tranquil colors and rich, textured fabrics. This will mark Prauss’ 18th year as a Showcase House designer.

Several of the bedrooms will be designed for children. The decor in one of the bedrooms will be based on the children’s book, Linnea in Monet’s Garden.

For fun, the third floor of the house, with its 50-foot ballroom lit in part by sunlight streaming in through skylights unique to a home of this age, will include a snack kitchen decorated with the homeowner’s own collection of Coca Cola memorabilia.

According to Levy, this house is a find because it’s still functional for a family today, nearly 100 years after it was designed.

“The architect had a lot of vision at the time this house was built,” she said. “This house has stood the test of time.”

ASID and OP-RF Infant Welfare Society have planned this year’s Showcase House weeks to include a number of events and activities beyond the house tour. Some of the events required advance registration and additional payment. Also, interior designers will be present in their rooms on Thursday nights from 7 to 9 p.m. to answer questions.

Todd House will be open from Sunday, Sept. 11 through Sunday, Oct. 2. Tickets are $20 before Sept. 1 and $25 after. Call 848-0528 or see for more information or to make reservations.

Sept. 9: 6:30-10 p.m. An Evening on the Orient Express preview party, including a buffet dinner, open bar and live entertainment. $75 until Sept. 1, then $85.

Sept. 11: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Opening day tour of the showcase house and garden.

1-4 p.m. Tour three former Showcase Homes. $50 includes Todd House and three historic homes.

Sept. 12: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Celebrating the Beauty of Design, featuring Joe Ruggiero, host of HGTV’s Homes Across America and The World of Design; Jill Salisbury, the founder of EL:Environmental Language; and interior designer/syndicated columnist Molly Milligan. $45 includes program, luncheon and tour.

Sept. 15 to 17: Celebrating the Beauty of Personal Treasures: Visitors to the house will be able to browse hand-crafted jewelry and evening bags by a variety of designers. Free with purchase of house tour ticket.

Sept. 18: 1-4 p.m. Celebrating the Glory of the Garden-Part I, with Bill Aldrich, publisher of Chicagoland Gardening Magazine; Debra Phillips of Scentimental Gardens; and Mike Nowak, host of WGN’s Let’s Talk Gardening. $40 includes program, refreshments and tour.

Sept. 19: 10 a.m.- 2 p.m. Celebrating the Glory of the Garden-Part II, with Bill Aldrich; Scott Mehaffey, landscape architect at Morton Arboretum; Dean MacMorris, Night Light, Inc.; and Hoy Landscaping. $45 includes program, luncheon and tour. Two-day garden event tickets are $75.

Sept. 22: 7 p.m.”Insiders Secrets to Decorative Wall Treatments” from Ed Mattingly of No Limits Paint Studio. $10.

Sept. 26: 10 a.m.”2 p.m. Celebrating the Pleasure of Hospitality. Chuck Cozette, editor and publisher of West Suburban Living Magazine, Lori Lennon on party giving; Gale Gand, executive pastry chef and co-owner of Tru (signing books), and Casey Cooper of Botanicals Chicago on flowers. $45 includes program, luncheon, house, garden and table settings tour.

Sept. 29: 7 p.m. Dinner By Design will present a new concept in meal preparation focusing on 12 meals assembled in two hours or less. $10.

Oct. 1: 5 p.m. ” 10 p.m. Celebrating Travel Destinations in Search of the Vine. The ballroom will feature table settings by ASID members, a live auction, wine samplings, case sales, gourmet accompaniments, experts and historical tips. $60 includes house/garden tour.

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