On Dec. 9, the Village of Oak Park’s Historic Preservation Commission recognized 11 Oak Park homes with Historic Preservation Awards. Doug Kaarre, urban planner and historic preservation contact for the village, noted that the awards cover a wide range of rehabilitation and restoration work in Oak Park. 

“This is something we do annually to recognize work done with an eye toward historic preservation,” Kaarre said. “There are four award categories: restoration, rehabilitation, addition and adaptive reuse. At times properties can fall into more than one category.”

The awards process

Have you been impressed by a project in your neighborhood? You don’t have to be an architect to nominate a home or building for the awards. Anyone can go on the village website to find a nomination form, available each spring. Applications are due in the fall of each year. While the selection committee will only consider projects that are complete, they will look at work that has been finished in the past five years.

Kaarre said the Historic Preservation Commission likes to cast a wide net of consideration. 

“It’s not limited to any specific type of building or to historic districts,” he said. “Any building in Oak Park can qualify. We also don’t limit it to one winner per category. We can have any number of winners.”

Each year the commission asks four people to be on the selection committee for the awards. While the qualifications may vary, Kaarre said, the commission looks for professionals outside the Oak Park community. 

“We find people who have some knowledge of preservation,” he said, “whether they are an architect or a planner or a member of a historic preservation commission from another community.”

This year’s selection committee included Michael Lambert of Geneva, Kim Smith of Smith Architecture, Scott Utter of Altus Works, and Janine Wilkosz from the Will County Land Use Department.

Highlights 

A prairie-style home at 403 N. Elmwood was recognized in the addition category. Oak Park architect Tom Basset-Dilley partnered with contractor Von Dreele-Freerksen Construction to create an addition to the house for a larger kitchen, eat-in area and mud room. Jerry Smith of Von Dreele-Freerksen said one goal of the addition was to make it look like it was a part of the overall home.

“We always look for existing elements in the house and try to pick up on those as design elements.”

According to Smith, they looked to an original leaded-glass window in the dining room to create a match in the new kitchen area. With the exterior stucco, his crew was careful to match the texture and finish of the rest of the house and tied in the horizontal lines of the eaves at the front and the rear of the home.

“It’s important to get those lines to tie in. People might not see it immediately, but it helps with the overall view of the house.”

Paul Wicklow of Oak Park’s Wicklow Development Group was honored for his restoration work on 646 N. Ridgeland, a 105-year-old house that had seen a lot of exterior change over the years.

“The house had aluminum siding, a crazy built-out eaves system and some weird kind of siding on the first floor,” Wicklow said. “It had great bones and really interesting details popping out when we looked at it.”

Wicklow, a historic preservation veteran, who has restored Oak Park homes for years, said that working on older homes requires a leap of faith. 

“I told my client that I’m a preservationist — and a purist. Those are things she wanted to hear.”

Once Wicklow removed all the detritus, he discovered that the lower third of the home was originally stucco, and he set out to re-stucco that section. Old photos helped him determine the design of the original dormer window, so he was able to recreate the original look. Opening the front porch again and restoring the stained glass on either side of the front door brought back the home’s charm.

John Eifler of Eifler & Associates, Architects saw his dedication to the preservation of Frank Lloyd Wright’s H.C. Goodrich Home recognized with the award for restoration.  Eifler, who worked with the home’s owners, Mark Donovan and Mary Ludgin, for over a decade, said the structure needed a lot of work. 

“With most Wright homes,” Eifler said, “you can look at the house and tell what isn’t original. With this house, because the changes took place so slowly, it was hard to tell.”

Over time, with the help of Bosi Construction, they reworked the home’s roof, trim, third-floor windows, basement, front stairs and much of the exterior of the home.

Eifler said their efforts at recreating the original appearance were aided by published drawings of the home. “Luckily, the house had been published in Architectural Record in the early 1900s. With the wonder of computers, we could recreate what we thought was there. When we started removing materials added on to the home, we discovered that our plans were correct.”

He credits the homeowners with the motivation for this time-intensive process. “I’ve never worked with a homeowner who insisted on better-than-museum quality work. That’s Mark. This house is Mark and Mary’s legacy. It’s a wonderful thing they’ve created for the village of Oak Park.”

Matt Arminio of LaSalle Street Homes took on a complete overhaul of an 1890s farmhouse, deconstructing changes that turned it into a two flat, and returning it to a single-family residence. The home at 210 S. Kenilworth won an award for restoration and addition. Not only did his crew work to repair the historic trim throughout the home, Arminio said, they also took care to replicate it in the 1,000-square-foot addition to the home. Matching historic details like this and the original cedar siding helped the new addition fit into the context of the historic structure.

John Potter of Morgante Wilson worked with the homeowners of a historic Tallmadge & Watson house on Fair Oaks to almost double the size of their traditional brick home. The addition is perpendicular to the home. Potter took pains to make the addition distinguishable from the original while tying it in to the historic home.  

“We made sure the addition looks like an addition, he said, so you can read the original, but at the same time we didn’t want it to look like a train wreck.”

He incorporated quoins (corner masonry blocks), limestone details and brick to match the original home’s traditional style. 

Jane Levy of Levy Custom Homes, worked with homeowners of a Victorian home on Elmwood to bring the house back to its historic aesthetic. Much of the interior of the building had been destroyed in a fire in the 1990s, leaving the house structurally unsound. The homeowners asked her to repair the damage and restore or return original details to the structure. 

She recalled finding treasures hidden in the walls, including clothing and a bottle from an Oak Park beer bottling company from the late 1880s. 

“To me, the pieces of the past are the most fun,” Levy said. “We need to preserve the past but move it forward.”

2015 Historic Preservation Awards

Restoration

646 N. Ridgeland Ave.: Deborah and Lee Brown (owners), Wicklow Development Group (contractor)

216 S. East Ave.: Patrick Vizzone (owner), Vizzone Construction (contractor)

534 N. East Ave.: Mark Donovan and Mary Ludgin (owners), Eifler & Associates (architect), Bosi Construction Co. (contractor)

521 Linden Ave.: Steven Puiszis and Claudia Marciniak (owners), Adams Street Iron (contractor), Mullins Painting (contractor)

335 S. Humphrey Ave.: Richard and Kelly Pollock (owners), Studio M Architects (architect), Conrad Construction (contractor)

143 S. Elmwood Ave.: Bill and Mary DiSomma (owners), Levy Custom Homes Inc. (contractors)

Rehabilitation

640 Belleforte Ave.: Renee R. Glos-Block (owner), Element Worx (contractor)

Addition

403 N. Elmwood: Rebecca and Fritz Kaegi (owners), Tom Basset-Dilley (architect), Von Dreele-Freerksen Construction Co. 

Rehabilitation and Adaptive Use

220 N. Euclid Ave.: Cheney Mansion Greenhouse, Park District of Oak Park (owners), Nagle Hartray Architects (architect), ATP Group (contractors)

Addition and Restoration

525 Fair Oaks Ave.: Michelle Wasson and Joel Farran (owners), Morgante Wilson Architects (architect), Elmshire Builders (contractor)

210 S. Kenilworth Ave.: LaSalle Street Homes (developer), Ideal Custom Designs (architect)

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