TRI-TAYLOR — A plan to preserve 19 Queen Anne-style worker cottages built in the 1880s on the Near West Side has advanced at City Hall after the Commission on Chicago Landmarks approved a recommendation to give the properties landmark status.
Eighteen of the homes sit in the 1000 block of South Claremont Avenue in Tri-Taylor, while one is positioned at the western corner of Claremont and Greenshaw.
The homes’ connection to heritage, noteworthy architecture, distinctive theme as a district, significant historical features and overall good condition are all reasons preservations say the sub-section should be landmarked, according to a report on the property, prepared as a joint effort between an architectural historian with the city’s landmark department, the Landmarks Illinois Preservation Heritage Fund and the Tri-Taylor Neighborhood Association.
Under the proposal, the properties’ external features, including the roofs, would be protected under the city’s landmark ordinance. It must first pass the full City Council before taking effect.
“Named the ‘Claremont Cottages’ by prolific real estate developers Turner & Bond, these buildings reflect the appreciation that Victorian-era Chicagoans had for highly-decorative, finely-crafted houses — even ones of modest scale — as well as the importance of small-scale residential buildings to the history of Chicago,” the report states.
The architect is believed to be either Normand S. Patton or Cicero Hine, according to researchers.
The block is located between Taylor and Greenshaw streets, and falls within the boundaries of the already established, larger Tri-Taylor Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.
In 1996, the Chicago Historic Resources Survey identified the area for potential landmark designation in the future.
“These homes are an amazing assets of Chicago’s Near West Side,” said Ward Miller, executive director of the nonprofit group Preservation Chicago.
In a neighborhood that’s weathered “many changes,” the Claremont Cottages district has remained a “special place” that evokes the sense of a “small village of somewhere other than Chicago; like you’re in another country,” Miller added.
More of the cottages used to populate the nearby streets of Heath and Oakley avenues, but have been “decimated” over time, Miller said.
According to Crawford, many who lived on the block assumed their homes were already included in the landmark district, and were surprised to discover that wasn’t the case. Inclusion on the list of historical places is an honorary designation.
That discovery caused neighbors on the block to form a grassroots effort to learn more about their properties and campaign for their preservation.
Part of that plan was mobilizing to coordinate with the organization Landmarks Illinois. The organization awarded the Tri-Taylor Neighborhood Association a $1,500 grant to hire consultant Katy Gallagher to conduct research and take photographs of the properties, effectively compiling much of the information included in the report submitted to the committee.
“These neighbors lovingly and proudly” want to protect their homes, said Lisa DiChiera, director of advocacy for Landmarks Illinois.
Several of the cottage owners also attended a meeting last week to urge the landmarks committee to proceed with the historic designation, including Lori Christopher, who has lived in her home for 20 years, and Brad Apland, who said his 21 years ownership still places him 7th in terms of seniority of ownership. Many of the cottages have been occupied by the same families for decades, residents said.
“We see a lot of folks complaining about these kinds of things, but not doing anything,” said committee member Ernest Wong. “I really want to commend these neighbors.”
While the homes are all built in a similar 1-½-story size, and distinguished by “eclectic ornamentation … high gabled roofs, overhanging eaves with turned wood brackets, oriel windows and carved stone trim,” no two homes are exactly alike, researchers said. Originally built as starter homes, many as small as 600-square-feet, most of the homes have been expanded.
An advertisement for the homes in a May 1884 edition of the Chicago Tribune boasted seven different styles of the 20-by-40 foot cottages, claiming them to be “the handsomest series of low priced houses ever built in the Northwest.”
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