Tom Kus was lured from Chicago by a jaw-dropping 13-room Queen Anne that dates to 1894 and, according to the Chicago Tribune, “could pass as a mansion with its bridal staircase, carved glass windows and third-floor outdoor terrace with a bird’s-eye view of the neighborhood.” He bought it nearly fifteen years ago after he saw it listed in a real estate magazine for $300,000.
Kus doesn’t live in Naperville or Oak Park or River Forest. He stays at the corner of 4th and Erie—in Maywood. Kus is just one of many transplants from Chicago and surrounding suburbs who’ve been tantalized by the prospect of living in a million dollar home for a fraction of the price.
Kus’s early enthusiasm for his own find didn’t wane. Since coming to Maywood, he’s made it his priority to make other residents and would-be homebuyers who may be unaware of these treasures realize just how much they’re missing. Back in 2005, he began the Historic Homes and Garden Walk, a guided tour of Maywood’s treasured housing stock held every July. Currently, Kus is chairman of the Maywood Historic Preservation Commission, whose creation he pushed for around 2003-2004, in an effort to raise awareness of the 17 edifices located here that are on the National Register of Historic Places.
“There are around 1,800 to 2,000 places that are on the Register in the state. Maywood has 17 of those, but probably another 50 that are eligible,” he said. In 2010, Maywood won the state Award for Commissions. And four years ago, the Village earned a Certified Local Government distinction, which makes it eligible for grants to assess and restore historic buildings. Kus believes that this kind of architectural restoration can drive more comprehensive economic development.
It’s a tragedy that the depth of Maywood’s architectural wealth is such a secret, even among its own citizens. I’d never known that Maywood had that many places listed on the Register. The fact made me squint in amazement. It’s a fact that shocks those both within and outside of Maywood. The Chicago Tribune reported a resident of La Grange saying, “‘The tour changed my perceptions of Maywood…I had no idea that Maywood had so many gorgeous homes. I was also impressed with the [village’s] history.’”
After talking with Mr. Kus, I realized that there is two kinds of embarrassment Maywood residents should feel. We should be embarrassed by the bad, of course. But we should be at least equally embarrassed by the overwhelming good about this town that too often gets obscured, if not downright overlooked, by our zealous preoccupation with the bad.
I hope to post more discussions with Mr. Kus on Maywood’s architecture, including in-depth coverage of the upcoming Historic Homes and Garden Walk, which is held every second Sunday in July. For more information on this event, email Mr. Kus at TKusTKT@aol.com. In the meantime, as a primer of sorts, you can take a tour virtually (below) and/or take a look at the slide show of some of Maywood’s historic homes provided on the Village’s website: