By Lacey Sikora
On Sunday October 14, 2018, the first of its kind Architectural Finds Tent Sale will take place in Oak Park on the lawn of the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio. All proceeds of the sale will benefit the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust and the Oak Park River Forest Historical Society.
Volunteer organizer Tom Abrahamson says he thinks this is the first time a local fundraiser has been so on-mission in that historical, architectural items are being sold to benefit historical, architectural charities. The Oak Park resident and Frank Lloyd Wright homeowner got the idea for the sale a few years ago.
"My basement is full of loads of things left behind by former homeowners. Among these were some column pieces. We have a Frank Lloyd Wright home, and the original columns had been left in the basement when they were remade."
Abrahamson sold the original Wright pieces on eBay and donated the proceeds to the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust and the Oak Park Education Foundation, and the idea for a charitable event was born.
"I realized that our house is not unique," he said, adding that there are probably a number of houses in Oak Park that have things historic items the basement or attic. "There is a lot of stuff that's not so precious but that people want to buy."
Abrahamson's idea was also influenced by his time as current commissioner of the village's Historic Preservation Commission, when he realized that when local homes are rehabbed, a lot of items end up in the landfill. The Commission group researched how other cities handled restoration of historic housing stock and learned that Portland, Oregon had a very active system of salvaging items, selling them and using the proceeds to better the community.
Abrahamson, who spent his professional career in non-profit marketing, realized he had stumbled upon an opportunity uniquely fitting for Oak Park. "Fundraising for non-profits is both never-ending and it's often hard to find something on mission. I approached the Trust and the Historical Society and they were both very excited about it," he said.
Tom Gull, Director of Development for the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust says, "The Trust is delighted to participate in this event," he said. "The proceeds will allow us to continue to offer programs such as our summer pop-up design studio for young children and complimentary tours for local residents several times a year.
"As the organization that was an early leader in Oak Park's historic preservation movement, we are delighted to offer another venue for reusing and repurposing these architectural finds."
How It Works
Abrahamson said he is seeking doors, windows, hardware, architectural elements, light fixtures, fireplace mantles, ironwork, and other items from Oak Park and River Forest homes. During September, he can schedule free pickup service at donors' homes. Donors may also drop off their items during business hours at the ReUse Depot. Abrahamson urges donors to email him at firstname.lastname@example.org to request donation information and instructions. Items can be donated through October 7.
Abrahamson notes that the ReUse Depot of Maywood is offering its services pro bono to make the event run smoothly. If items are suitable for the sale, ReUse Depot will provide a free pickup service and store all of the materials in its warehouse prior to the sale. They will provide a charitable deduction receipt based on the value of the donated item. ReUse Depot is a certified partner of The Reuse People of America, a 501(c)3 nonprofit and will provide tax deduction forms at the time of donation. The donor will determine the value of their donation at an amount of up to $4,999; for items valued at $5,000 or more, a professional appraisal is required.
Any items that do not sell during the event can be returned to the ReUse Depot, where they will be sold on consignment with the proceeds benefitting the Trust and Historical Society.
To date, Abrahamson says he has already received significant donations. "Right now, more than twenty historic homes, many of them landmarked, have donated items to the sale," he said. "We have several Frank Lloyd Wright homes donating stuff. There are some pretty amazing homes involved."
Donations include leaded glass windows from the Hills-DeCaro house, remodeled by Wright and Heywood Wakefield chairs from the River Forest's Women's Club designed by William Drummond. Other donations include original kitchen floors from a Wright home, columns, architectural artifacts, stained glass and leaded windows, doors, hardware, bathtubs, pedestal sinks, medicine cabinets, doorknobs, sconces and hardware.
During the tent sale, each item will have a sales tag with a photo of the home it came from and a story about the item's origin, which Abrahamson thinks contributes to the historical tenor of the event. "It's pretty great that people can buy a little bit of history."
Benefits Beyond a Clean Basement
Abrahamson notes that the event has five benefits. It raises awareness in the community about historic preservation and reuse and provides a method for homeowners to make tax deductible donations of architecturally interesting materials. The event also raises funds for two important local organizations: the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust and the Oak Park and River Forest Historical Society. It helps the environment by providing renovators and contractors an alternative to dumpsters and landfills, and it lets homeowners share the enjoyment of these treasures with others in the communities for their renovation and "upcycling" projects.
The Architectural Finds Tent Sale will take place rain or shine from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, 951 Chicago Ave., on Sunday October 14th. The event is during the Open House Chicago weekend, an annual, free architectural tour of architecturally significant Chicago area buildings that brought over 2,000 visitors to the Oak Park area last year.
To see some of the items offered at the sale, visit https://www.facebook.com/Oak-Park-River-Forest-Architectural-Finds-Tent-Sale-538047083319198/?modal=admin_todo_tour
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