AUSTIN — The iconic “Pink House” on Chicago’s West Side is not being demolished, but it also won’t be pink for long, as its new owners have begun a full interior remodel to restore the dilapidated property — and give it a new paint job.
Debra Kelch, who bought the house at 556 N. Central Ave. in Austin about 18 months ago with her husband and daughter, said construction started last week on the extensive remodel, which will include a complete gutting of the house’s interior, an open floor plan, new roof, new siding and new windows.
Social media posts claiming the house was being torn down circulated widely on Tuesday, saddening West Siders who described the property as an indelible part of their neighborhood.
Kelch quashed those rumors Wednesday, saying the family was merely restoring the house in the hopes of putting it on the market, and that the classic Victorian exterior facade, gabled turret and double-deckered, wrap-around porch would remain largely the same.
“Everything is going to be kept as original as possible,” Kelch said. “We’re going to try to keep it a beautiful Victorian. It’s too pretty of a design. That’s actually why we bought it.”
But Kelch said that the eponymous white-and-pink trim and picket fence would be getting a replacement, too.
“No, we’re not keeping it pink,” Kelch said. “There were pros and cons, but it would be harder to sell.”
Kelch said the house would likely be painted sage green, the same color as the new garage, which was built last year.
Situated on a large corner parcel at the intersection of Central Avenue and Ohio Street in Austin, the stately, 2,600-square-foot, five-bedroom Victorian gingerbread house has a history that dates back to the late 1800s. In the 1980s, Isiah Anderson bought the rundown property, restoring it to its former glory and repainting the once murky-green building with its hallmark pink-and-white colors .
The interior of the house also included plush pink furniture, pink carpet and ornate pink staircases and balustrades. Anderson’s daughter, Yolanda, said the home’s bright colors were inspired by her parents’ upbringing in the south, where it’s more common for homes to include conspicuous colors and artful trim.
But by 2020, Anderson had died and the house had once again fallen into disrepair. Yolanda put the property on the market, looking to sell it to new owners who would preserve the building.
Kelch, who lives in Michigan, bought the property in March 2021 for $120,000, according to Cook County Assessor’s records.
Kelch said she and her husband bought it with the intention of renovating the property so her daughter could live in it. But it took about 18 months for the city to issue the new owners a building permit, and her daughter recently got a job offer elsewhere, prompting their desire to sell, Kelch said.
City records show that the owners obtained a building permit to do an interior remodel on Sept. 2, 2022.
The city also filed a foreclosure complaint against the property on Aug. 25, 2022 arguing the property owners had left the home in a dilapidated state, with a rotted roof, damaged masonry and cracked joists, among other issues, according to a copy of the complaint obtained by Block Club.
Kelch did not know the city had issued the foreclosure complaint. The city Building Department did not respond to a request for comment regarding the permit, and the city Law Department declined to comment on pending litigation.
Meanwhile, Kelch said the remodel would include an open floor plan, as well as entirely new siding and structural repairs. On Wednesday, a crew of laborers were working on the roof, replacing shingles and rafters.
“Everything will be brand new, inside and out,” Kelch said. “The house will be beautiful when it’s all done.”
Yolanda Anderson, the previous owner, said homes this old often need parts torn out in order to build it back up.
“I am positive that they will do an excellent job and bring it back to life better than ever,” she said.
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