Trying to Save a Piece of Architectural History
Chicago Tribune By John P. Huston
A self-described architecture buff is scrambling to dismantle a Frank Lloyd Wright-connected cottage in Wilmette and move it to Wauconda, saving the structure from demolition and earning applause from preservationists.
But the wrecking ball could still swing on a second historic Prairie School-style home next door if a buyer is not found within four months.
Schaumburg developer George Hausen recently purchased the adjoining properties and had planned to redevelop the site before the provenance of the two homes was revealed, showing links to three prominent architects: Wright, Rudolph Schindler and John Van Bergen.
In response, Hausen offered to donate the cottage and temporarily put the larger home on the market.
Joseph Catrambone, an Oak Brook-based contractor and real estate manager, read news accounts of the endangered cottage at 1320 Isabella St. and, after a selection process, took ownership recently for $1.
The 594-square-foot Prairie-style cottage was designed in 1920 by the Austrian-born Schindler, who ran Wright's Oak Park studio at the time, according to records.
After a Wilmette Park District committee decided last month not to take ownership of the structure, preservationists had to move quickly to find someone to take over the cottage by the April 30 closing date, said John Thorpe, vice president of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy.
Catrambone owns one of his family's three adjoining properties in Wauconda, where he plans to relocate the Schindler cottage. It will likely cost him about $7,000 to dismantle, he said.
He plans to restore the cottage to its original features and floor plan, which was altered during a 1950s renovation. He plans on spending an additional $40,000 on reconstruction, which he hopes to complete by next summer.
There has been a flurry of activity over the double lot since February, when preservationists learned of Hausen's initial plan to demolish the two homes, including the Prairie-style house designed in 1927 by Van Bergen, a Wright associate.
With the cottage likely saved, preservationists are focusing on the Van Bergen home. Hausen has agreed to keep the house on the market for four months before he'll consider bringing in the wrecking ball.
The three-bedroom, 21/2-bathroom home is listed for $599,000.
Lisa DiChiera, advocacy director for the nonprofit Landmarks Illinois, said the new home owner could seek landmark status and qualify for an eight-year property tax assessment freeze, which would help finance any necessary renovations.
She said she is worried that four months isn't enough time to get the property sold, citing a recent increase in the teardown market.
Hausen said the Van Bergen home was listed May 1 and has already received substantial attention.