(Left to right: 400 S. 18th and 216 S. 10th Avenue, both in Maywood. Photos by Google Maps).
Wednesday, June 11, 2014 || By Michael Romain
MAYWOOD–At a May 28, Legal, License, Ordinance and Committee (LLOC) meeting, the Maywood Board of Trustees voted unanimously to consider designating homes at 400 S. 18th Avenue and 216 S. 10th Avenue as Local Landmarks. They also voted unanimously to consider the demolition of 26 S. 21st Avenue. The Board voted on all three items separately. Next, the items will head to a regular board meeting, where all binding votes on agenda items are made.
The Maywood Historic Preservation Commission (MHPC) voted unanimously last year at an August 1, public hearing to recommend that Board designate the homes as Local Landmarks. According to a memo from Acting Village Manager David Myers, the landmarking of the homes will not cost any money, outside of the fee for creating the landmark plaques. The public hearing facilitated by the MHPC was convened after citizens successfully submitted nominating petitions for both homes.
According to the nominating report, the home at 400 S. 18th Avenue is historically named the James F. Skinner House after the businessman who once owned it. Skinner (1868-1917), was a close friend and collaborator of Richard W. Sears, the founder of Sears Roebuck & Co. In 1895, after Sears moved his direct response mail order house to Chicago, Skinner became a partner in the growing company. He purchased the house at 400 S. 18th on September 12, 1906, where he lived for four years before moving to Oak Park.
The Skinner home is a two-half story vernacular Queen Anne built on a limestone foundation. “Decorative details included ornamental iron works on the roof and decorative railings around the roof line above the wrap around porch. All the windows have been replaced with vinyl. The original front door is still attached,” the report said.
The home at 216 S. 10th Avenue is named the Gustav Gunzert House. It was built in 1882 and, according to Maywood Park District Commissioner Dawn Williams-Rone, has pre-historic significance. The home has been opened up to DePaul University archaeology staff and students for the last several years.
“DePaul found items that date back to the prehistoric era,” Williams-Rone said. “This property has been in tact for 150 years and its a wonderful heritage to our community.”
Williams-Rone said that the Park District, which took ownership of the home about a month ago, is seeking to turn it into a museum. She said that entities such as Triton College, the Art Institute and the Veterans Administration have interests in the home’s historical value. Williams-Rone noted that the Park District would be looking to leverage those relationships while planning the museum.
“It will be a walk-through museum,” she said, replete with historical reenactments, a gift shop and an outhouse restored to its original condition. The museum would be under the jurisdiction of the Maywood Park District.
Maywood Police Chief Valdimir Talley, while generally supportive of the preservation attempts, sounded a cautionary note. He wanted assurance that the Park District’s plans for a museum wouldn’t turn into another site in the Village that is permanently under-construction and vulnerable to crime.
“My priority is public safety,” Talley said. “Construction on an unfinished property […] becomes a public safety and policing nightmare. I totally support the project, but if it starts and becomes abandoned, then I have to drain resources of the Village to provide protective services.”
Williams-Rone said that, once the landmark process is complete, the Park District will have a 6-8 month window “when we’ll come before the board regarding permits and everything else, but it’s premature to address those things tonight. That will be later down the road and the Park District will do everything to comply with the Board’s wishes.”
Lennel Grace, a member of the MHPC, said that the Commission’s desire is to establish an area called “Ebonyville” that is worthy of preservation.
“For those of you who grew up in the town, you understand that the areas bounded by 14th and 10th Avenues, from Oak Street to St. Charles [was restricted to black and Jewish settlement],” he said.
Grace also called for a more holistic understanding of preservation, which considers more than architecture.
“The goal of the Commission is to preserve the most representative elements that contributed to the fabric of the town,” he said, noting that the preservation process evaluates three primary aspects of an area’s or a property’s existence: the period of interest, the architectural significance and the person of interest. He said that the Skinner home combined a compelling period of interest with a historically significant person of interest.
While Grace and Williams-Rone advocated for homes to be preserved, Acting Village Manager David Myers made the case for a home at 26 S. 21st Avenue to be demolished. A fire completely destroyed half the home on December 22, 2013. In a memo requesting demolition, Myers noted:
“The owner and the bank were notified to have the site cleaned up and the structure removed. The Village had a 6-foot chain link fence installed around the property for safety of the neighbors. Citations were issued to the bank until compliance. We received a check from Proctor Financial in the amount of $29,694.31 for demolition of the property.”
(26 S. 21st Avenue, Maywood. Photo by Michael Romain for The Village Free Press).
Myers solicited three bids from Wreckon Specs, LLC in Evanston, Illinois ($15,000); Leeway Wrecking here in Maywood ($20,000); and Impactor Inc., in Itasca, Illinois ($24,000). Myers recommended the lowest bidder, Wreckon. He said that he recommended Wreckon to “remove the remaining structure and debris from the property and provide landscape restoration. The remaining funds will be returned back to Proctor Financial.”VFP