The second year of the pandemic didn’t put a dent into local home sales, and the selling season started early. Spring and summer 2021 saw real estate listings receiving multiple offers and often selling above asking price.
While the year saw the permanent cancellation of the New Moms Kitchen Walk, other housewalks such as the Friends of the Oak Park Conservatory Garden Walk, the Oak Park River Forest Historical Society Housewalk and Wright Plus returned.
Locals remained as committed as ever to renovating their homes and celebrating the area’s rich architectural history.
In January, we looked at the local apartment rental market. At the time, rents were down in the city, but down less significantly in the near west suburbs like Oak Park.
Oak Park led the state in number of newly built rental units for the suburbs. Local vintage units were in demand, with rental companies seeing demand for units with parking rather than those near transportation centers, perhaps reflecting a pandemic move towards driving over public transportation.
In February, we looked at a home in River Forest that is a good example of the village’s past and present. The house at 343 Ashland Ave. looked like a traditional bungalow from the front, but move to rear of the property, and a modern addition with walls of glass brought this house firmly into the twenty-first century.
In March, we considered the sale of an unusual type of home: a house of worship. Built in 1917, the Lutheran Reformed Evangelical Church at the corner of Scoville and Adams in Oak Park was originally a modest clapboard church it was added onto in the 1940s and 1950s.
The listing proposed that the church was ripe for a development. At press time, the church and the parsonage next door are still for sale, with an asking price of $1,295,000.
The New Moms Kitchen Walk is typically the first housewalk of the spring season. When the organization decided to cancel the walk in 2021, it was due to a combination of factors.
The pandemic made long-term planning for events challenging, and New Moms found that its virtual fundraising was more successful than the annual housewalk at bringing in the funds necessary to fund their mission of offering support to young mothers and families.
We took a look at Clare Place, one of New Moms’ residential buildings and the mothers who live there.
In May, we looked at two homes on the market in Oak Park designed by architectural duo Patton & Fisher. The John Rankin House at 245 N. Kenilworth Ave. (above) was built in 1888. Listed at $950,000, the home sold for $800,000 in July.
The Lawrence Muther House, just a block away at 222 Forest Ave. was built in 1883. It was listed at $1,290,000 and sold for $1,050,000 in October.
After a year’s hiatus due to the pandemic, the Friends of the Oak Park Conservatory and the Garden Club of Oak Park returned with their annual garden walk.
Nine private gardens were opened for public tours. Among the offerings were an Oak Park garden inspired by Italian classicism and a native plant garden in Oak Park that brings in birds, butterflies and bugs.
In July we covered Oak Park’s Porchfest. It was a homecoming of sorts for musician Dennis O’Brien. He grew up in the house at 701 S. Elmwood Ave. with his nine brothers.
Many of those brothers were in attendance when O’Brien and the home’s current owner, Alex Harris, played a few sets for crowds gathered in front of the historic home, which was the original home of one of the Gunderson brothers who developed the area more than 100 years ago.
Just a few blocks away on Gunderson Avenue, we found the source of an August story on the gut renovation of another Gunderson-built home.
Native Australian Matthew Eade purchased the 1908 residence aware that the much-loved home would need some work to modernize the mechanicals. As he brings the home into the 21st century with new plumbing, electricity and HVAC systems, he is working to maintain the original historic soul of the house that sold him on the neighborhood and Oak Park.
Dogged by pandemic-related rescheduling, the Wright Plus housewalk finally returned in September. With safety precautions in place, visitors could see five River Forest homes and two in Oak Park. Highlights included the Isabel Roberts Home and the J. Kibben Ingalls Home (above).
In October we examined the influence of architect Charles Kirsten in Oak Park. The prolific architect designed more than 100 homes in the village where he lived. He worked in a variety of styles, including English, Tudor, Colonial and Norman.
During November, we looked into the giant holes being dug in Mills Park. As Pleasant Home, which is owned by the Park District of Oak Park, upgraded its heating system and added air conditioning along with a new geothermal heating and cooling system, we learned about the benefits of using green technology in historic buildings.
In December, we crossed Austin Boulevard to see one of the oldest homes in the neighborhood apply for landmark status.
Built in 1869, the Seth Warner House on Central Avenue was built for an early settler of Chicago who was a music lover and abolitionist.
After his death, the home became a hotel and a music school in Austin. Today, its owners have taken on a long-term restoration project to maintain it as a historic, single-family home.