303 N. Marion St. (Provided)

The pandemic might have wiped out Oak Park’s annual recognition of home and business owners in 2020, but in 2021, the Historic Preservation and Cavalcade of Pride Awards were back. 

Announced on March 15, the 2021 winners include 16 homes, multifamily buildings, gardens and businesses which were awarded Cavalcade of Pride Awards by the Oak Park Community Design Commission. Eight homes and buildings were recognized by the Oak Park Historic Preservation Commission with Historic Preservation Awards.

Noel Weidner, chair of the Historic Preservation Commission, says the Historic Preservation Awards are a way to celebrate good stewardship and homeowners who take the time to do renovations accurately. 

He says that many of the award winners put a lot of time into making sure they honor the history of their homes, by researching old photos of their homes or looking at homes of a similar era. Any home on the village is eligible for an award.

“It doesn’t have to be in a historic district,” Weidner said. “We like to see historic preservation being appreciated village-wide. The selection committee looks at all areas of the village. This is not just for the historic districts or large mansions.”

The house at 631 N. Kenilworth Ave. (right) was altered significantly during the 1950s or 1960s (left). The present homeowners were recognized for their historically sensitive remodel of the entire exterior. (Provided)

The home at 631 N. Kenilworth Ave. was recognized for the rehabilitation of its exterior. The house had been altered significantly in the 1950s or 1960s. 

“You could tell something was off,” Weidner said of the home prior to its renovation.

The house had been for sale for a long time before it was purchased, and Weidner points to the property as an interesting example of how property values and the value to the community come together, saying the amount of renovation needed to bring make the house livable was extensive. 

“It was one those properties that seemed like it was slipping away and trending downward to becoming a teardown,” Weidner said. “It’s nice to see it saved.”

The homeowners of 303 N. Marion St. removed the decades-old asphalt siding (left) and reclad it with period-appropriate materials and decoration (right). They also pared back the overgrown landscaping to allow the newly remodeled exterior to shine. (Provided)

Another home that pared back alterations to go back to a historic style is 303 N. Marion St. Weidner states that the 1890s-era home had been covered with asphalt siding for roughly 60 years. 

When the siding was removed, the contractor used details such as the brackets on a gable to reconstruct a more appropriate exterior for the house. Weidner calls the unveiling “exciting.”

Whirlwind Coffee at 513 Madison St. was also recognized with an award. Weidner notes that the coffee shop brought economic activity to the area while preserving the history of the building and says the adaptive reuse reinvigorated the block.

513 Madison

Weidner says the awards are an important part of recognizing and celebrating the time and money that many in the village invest in their historic properties. 

“Generally, I think a lot of Oak Parkers take pride in their properties, and to recognize the care, the money and the time that is spent to do a sensitive restoration is something that should be celebrated and encouraged,” he said. 

This year’s Historic Preservation Award winners will be given a sign to place in their yards, and Weidner hopes the visual recognition will spur more people to practice stewardship of their historic properties.

“So often preservation is thought of as reactive. When there’s a threat, we act,” Weidner said. “This awards and sign program is proactive. It does something for how people view historic preservation.”

Village Planner Craig Failor says the Oak Park Community Design Committee has been recognizing Cavalcade of Pride winners since the 1970s to award property owners who have done an exceptional job of maintaining and improving the exteriors of their homes and businesses.

The awards were intended to thank people for being models for their neighborhoods. Properties are nominated in one of several categories, including residential, multifamily, commercial, gardens and special use.

400 N. Lombard

Failor says some of the homes that won awards this year aren’t overwhelming projects but are just good examples of homeowners taking care of their properties. He points to 400 N. Lombard Ave. as a property where the homeowners upgraded their landscaping and the entry into the house. 

“The house has always been well-maintained, but they went one step further,” Failor said.

135 Le Moyne

Another home, 135 LeMoyne Parkway, also has a well-designed landscape that Failor says is pristinely maintained. A garden at 623 N. Euclid Ave., is just amazing according to Failor, and 801 S. Oak Park Ave. is an example of a multifamily building that Failor says was an architectural improvement to a site that formerly was home to a gas station.

623 N. Euclid

Until this year, the awards had always been an effort of the Community Design Committee, who walk the community and look for properties to recognize. In 2022, community members will be able to nominate properties as well, which Failor says will broaden the reach of the awards. Nominations for Cavalcade of Pride Awards are open until July 15.

Community members can also nominate homes for Historic Preservation Awards online.

Historic Preservation Award nominations are open until Sept. 30, 2022.

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