In May, the village of Oak Park designated the Swenson-Gottlieb Home at 1201 Fair Oaks Ave. a local landmark, joining a group of nearly 70 locally designated landmark properties in the village.
The designation comes with a few benefits, not least of which is the opportunity to celebrate and share the home’s architectural and historical character.
The home was built in 1931 as a collaboration between architect George E. Pearson and the builders George Ellefsen and Arne Bentsen. Pearson was active in designing homes in the Oak Park area and between 1919 and 1938. He designed at least 229 homes in the suburb. Of these, 24 were collaborations with Ellefsen and Bentsen, including their own homes — Ellefsen’s at 1227 Rossell Ave. and Bentsen’s at 1212 N. Grove Ave.
Pearson specialized in designing bungalows and American foursquare houses and often referenced Colonial Revival and Tudor Revival styles in his designs. One of his other Oak Park designs, 1139 Woodbine Ave., also known as the Benson/Armstrong House is also an Oak Park landmark.
The Swenson-Gottlieb House is a one-story, red brick bungalow, designed with a matching two-car garage. The front bay window features stonework in the Renaissance Revival style and the home’s form, bricks and stained-glass windows reference the Craftsman style.
Over the years, the porch and wingwall were replaced with the existing stones reset, and in 2008 previous owners remodeled the kitchen. Much of the house’s original details, including over 100 stained-glass windows remain intact.
Contractors Ellefsen and Bentsen sold the house to Peter Swenson in December 1931. At some point between 1935 and 1936, Swenson sold the house to David Gottlieb.
Gottlieb earned millions as a pinball machine manufacturer. He founded a company in 1927 which devised the button-operated flipper, used in the operation of almost all pinball machines manufactured at that time. At the time of his death, Gottlieb’s company was the world’s largest manufacturer of pinball machines.
Locally, Gottlieb is also known for his philanthropy, which led him to found Gottlieb Memorial Hospital in Melrose Park in honor of his parents.
David and his wife Dorothy raised their three children, Alvin, Marjorie and Roberta, in the home and lived in the house until the 1970s. David Gottlieb died in Florida in 1974 at the age of 73.
By 1978, the home was owned by Robert Noland, who was famous in his own right. A physics professor at the University of Chicago, Noland also worked at the Argonne National Laboratory. Neighborhood lore says that Noland worked on the Manhattan Project.
Oak Park’s urban planner in historic preservation, Susie Trexler, says residences like the Swenson-Gottlieb Home are typically nominated for landmark status by the property owners but notes that anyone can submit a landmark nomination.
Landmarking has numerous financial benefits, Trexler said, as it makes properties eligible for financial incentives like state and federal tax credit programs. She points out that these incentives exist for owner-occupied residences as well as for income-producing properties.
Landmarking also protects the historic integrity of the property by requiring historic preservation reviews for future exterior alterations. Owners of landmarked properties receive a bronze plaque that they can display on their property.
“Landmarking brings recognition to a historic property and promotes its unique story,” Trexler said. “We are so grateful to owners of landmarks because they ensure the continued preservation and recognition of Oak Park’s broad and varied history as told through its buildings. There are always more stories to share and we always welcome new landmark nominations. They help give a voice to these stories.”
Trexler encourages any property owner who is interested in landmarking their property or in learning more about the process to reach out at email@example.com.