AUSTIN — The iconic pink Victorian at 556 N. Central Ave. in the Austin neighborhood has been a local hallmark since the 1980s — but now the home is up for sale.
While the listing price of the home has dropped from $290,000 to $160,000 in the nine months it’s been on the market, the house remains priceless to its owners and community members.
The 2,667-square-foot, five-bedroom house has been around since 1894. Situated on a massive corner lot, the home features lots of endearing pink details, including a pink-and-white railing that stretches along the spacious porch and a pink-and-white picket fence.
There’s a round pink-and-white turret on the second floor, giving the house an old-fashioned, whimsical feel. And of course, the trim on the house is pink and white, too.
On the inside? Even more pink.
The floors are covered in pink plush carpeting. Pink curtains hang from the windows, and the walls are lined with ornate pink furniture to match.
From murky green to vibrant pink
Despite being known as Central Avenue’s “pink house” for decades, the Victorian wasn’t painted vibrant pink until co-owner Yolanda Anderson’s parents purchased the home more than 30 years ago.
And it was in rough shape when her parents bought it.
“It was it was pretty rundown, the floorboards, everything,” Anderson said. Despite boarded up windows and peeling, murky green paint, her parents still saw the beauty in it.
“They didn’t mind going ahead and taking a chance to purchase it and try to bring back some of that older charm that it had to have had back in the 1800s,” she said.
After purchasing the home in 1986, Anderson’s parents transformed the green-and-white house into a rose-pink dream through lots of hard work. Her father was the beating heart of the house, making all of the improvements and repairs himself, she said.
By 1989, the house was revived enough for the family to move in.
Anderson’s family has Southern roots — her father moved to Chicago from Arkansas, and her mother was a transplant from South Carolina. Moving into the old wooden home with a gabled rooftop and wrap-around porch reminded them of homes in the South, and their roots inspired the home’s hue.
In the South, historic homes take on bright, brilliant colors, Anderson said, in schemes of blue and white, yellow and white and pink and white that combine beautifully with the lush green landscaping.
Chicagoans might not pick up on the home’s Southern inspiration, though.
“I think that’s something that gets lost in translation when we come into the city,” she said.
Anderson’s parents chose the bold color as a way to signal to the neighborhood that the home was being resurrected to its former glory. It was her mother’s favorite color, a color that reflected the joy they hoped to find in their new home.
“The color pink just kind of represents the color of love. And we wanted to put a little bit of that in the community,” she said. “The West Side in general, they have a really bad reputation, a lot of stereotypes. But it’s a lot of community here.”
Up for sale
The house has kept its signature pink hue since then, but as the house ages, maintaining the home has required more and more work, especially after a fire damaged the roof in 2005. In recent years, the house has fallen out of its prime, and it now needs a new roof and rehabbed porch.
Years ago when the house needed repairs, Anderson’s father took care of it. But since his passing in 2017, the family hasn’t had the resources to maintain the old Victorian.
“Everything that needed to be done in the house, he was the one that did it. So we never really had to outsource,” Anderson said. “He was so gifted and educated with how to do the electrical work, or the plumbing, or whatever it is that we needed to have done.”
Facing a hard reality that they can’t keep the old home up any longer, Anderson said it’s heartbreaking for the family to give up their home after 30 years.
The owners have sought out aid from the city’s homeownership programs to help pay for repairs, but it hasn’t been enough to keep up the house’s condition. Anderson said she has applied for roof and porch repair grants from the city over the last seven years, but has never won the grants.
Despite the decline of the house, Anderson is proud of the impact her family home made on the character of Austin. She hopes the next owners will see the house as a passion project as her parents did, and renew it to its former glory, instead of tearing out its guts — or even worse, tearing it down.
The house would make an excellent Airbnb, the real estate listing notes.
“We made it this far. We brought the house up [from] a point where I think it was pretty much abandoned and neglected and just, you know, forgotten about,” she said.
The house remains a local landmark and a symbol of pride in Austin. It’s fostered a sense of unity among West Siders — like the gaping potholes along Central Avenue, everyone knows the pink-and-white Victorian. They’ve all experienced it.
“[If] they do end up tearing it down, I think that that would be very impactful for the neighborhood. People just seem to like to know that it’s there,” she said.
“They seem to think that it’s a part of what the West Side represents. They’ve made a slogan saying, ‘You haven’t been on the West Side of Chicago until you’ve seen the pink-and-white house.'”
Check out more photos of Austin’s pink-and-white house:
Pascal Sabino is a Report for America corps member covering Austin, North Lawndale and Garfield Park for Block Club Chicago.
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