It’s been an active year in local real estate sales, with a busy spring market that saw homes selling with multiple offers and above asking price. Housewalks returned in person, and renovations continued throughout Oak Park and River Forest at a healthy pace.
What’s in store for 2023 is anyone’s guess, but with a richness of architecture and personalities, the stories will keep coming.
In January, we looked into the world of Chicago architecture through the eyes of Oak Park-based writer Pat Cannon. A veteran Frank Lloyd Wright Trust volunteer, Cannon teamed up with long-time collaborator, photographer James Caufield on their sixth book, “At Home in Chicago: A Living History of Domestic Architecture.”
Cannon showcases more than 50 homes in the Chicago area from the 1830s to the present. With the criteria that the homes had to still be standing, he starts with structures as simple as long cabins and moves towards landmarks such as Wright’s Heurtley House in Oak Park, examples of the iconic Chicago bungalow and a net-zero house as well.
February brought a look into what it takes to age in place in Oak Park’s historic houses. Elizabeth and John Muhlenberg loved their family home, a four-square home built in 1910, but with John’s Parkinson’s advancing, the couple knew they needed a first-floor bathroom that their house did not have. Loath to move, they reached out to contractor Tony Roeder of Marion Street Services who helped them make their home a place where they can comfortably age in place.
In March, we examined a contentious topic: parking in Oak Park. Everyone has an opinion on the topic, and most of those opinions are not positive.
While residents love to lament the parking situation, village representatives point out that there are many options for people whose homes don’t come with a dedicated parking place. From village-owned garages, to permits for street parking to privately rented spots, a number of solutions exist with on-line payment and applications making the process easier.
A church for sale graced our pages in April. Parkview Church on South Oak Park Avenue was listed for sale for $650,000. Marketed by agent Matt Messier, who specializes in the sale of religious properties, the building spans over 13,000 square feet and offered possibilities for rehab by an institution or more likely by a developer interested in renovating the building into a residence. The price of 641 S. Oak Park Ave. was recently lowered to $595,000, but it remains on the market.
In May, we looked inside an Arts & Crafts cottage with style galore at 454 Iowa St. in Oak Park. Designed by architect Lawrence Buck, the home was featured in the Ladies Home Journal and House Beautiful.
Listed for $925,000 by Sheila Kiesling of Coldwell Banker Realty, the stucco and shingled home sold for $1.1 million.
We took a walk down memory lane in June with Nora Natof. The granddaughter of Frank Lloyd Wright now lives in Oak Park in Mills Tower. Natof’s mother, Frances Wright Caroe, was one of Wright’s daughters with his first wife Catherine.
Natof says her mother was estranged from the famous architect for much of her childhood. After first meeting her grandfather at the Plaza Hotel at the age of 12, Natof later spent summers at Taliesin in Wisconsin.
In July, we focused on River Forest with a feature on Lorrie and Tom Michael. The couple spent much of their 60 years of married life in their home on Ashland Avenue, but Lorrie’s tenure in the house was even longer.
Her parents built the brick home in 1934, and Lorrie and Tom took it over in 1962. They raised seven children in the home and were active in the community, the Kiwanis Club and River Forest parades. In 2016, the village honored Tom with an honorary street sign that reads: Tom “Big Guy” Michael Way.
In August we turned the spotlight on architect Henry Fiddelke. In Oak Park, his Hales Mansion on the corner of Oak Park and Chicago avenues is one of the largest estates in town. He also left his mark on the commercial districts of Forest Park and Oak Park, and designed the original Holmes School in Oak Park.
September brought the continued story of the empty lot at 329 Home Ave. in Oak Park. After rehabbing the existing four-unit apartment building at 327 Home Ave., the new owners sought village approval to change the zoning on the empty lot from two-family to multi-family, with the stated intention to build four townhomes on the lot.
Many neighbors contested the proposed zoning change, which would have permitted the developer to build more than four units on the lot.
In October we looked at the rehabilitation of a multi-family building at 617 S. Lombard Ave. The building had fallen on hard times when real estate investor Owen Li purchased it prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He intended to rehab the building and live in one unit with his family, but the delayed pace of construction during the pandemic and skyrocketing construction costs changed his plans.
After a long process of construction, he listed the entire building for sale, while also listing the units for rent in the fall of 2022.
A mobster’s former home made the news in November, when the bungalow once owned by Sam Giancana hit the market. Listed at $1.1 million by Zak Knebel and Camille Hoover of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, the Mediterranean style bungalow at 1147 Wenonah Ave. in Oak Park was the site of the mobster’s death in 1974.
In December, local real estate agents opined on whether or not the holiday season was a good time to buy or sell a home and hazard guesses about what the real estate world might look like in 2023.