Three historic homes set for demolition

Historic preservation commission frustrated with inability to protect structures


Last updated 3/11/2020 at 3:48pm | View PDF

Owners of the homes at 419 S. Oak St. (from left), 716 S. Oak and 641 S. Elm St. are in the process of applying for certificates of appropriateness in order to demolish and rebuild three homes in the Robbins Park neighborhood, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. The applicants are required to go before the Historic Preservation Commission and be present for a public hearing, but the commission's recommendations are not binding. (Jim Slonoff photos; art from village board packet)

In the midst of a possible moratorium on teardowns and changes to the zoning code, the Hinsdale Historic Preservation Commission conducted a regular slate of business at its March 4 meeting.

The commission's task last week was to review applications to demolish three homes in the Robbins Park Historic District, all of which are listed as contributing structures. Public hearings were scheduled for the homes at 716 S. Oak St., 419 S. Oak St. and 641 S. Elm St. The hearing on 419 S. Oak was canceled because the homeowner was unable to attend.

At 716 S. Oak, Arnold Kozys of Willow Springs wants to tear down the 1928 Classic Revival house, former home of the Dean family, to build an 8,000-square-foot arts and crafts style home on the lot. The property is actually three lots totaling 1.38 acres that the homeowner has applied to consolidate.

Commissioner Alexis Braden questioned whether any historic elements have been incorporated into the design.

"This is the historic district and while this is a lovely home, I'd love to see more of how you see this tying into the existing street, especially replacing this great Revival home," she said.

She also noted that a group of citizens had launched a petition to save the home, and she had signed it.

"They are sharing their concerns about why this is coming down," she said. "It is structurally sound and it is architecturally significant.

"If you wanted an open floor plan, you could have bought anywhere," she added. "This is one of the gems of our town."

Commission Chairman John Bohnen also emphasized the structure's historic significance.

"This is one of the iconic homes in town," he said.

Attorney Peter Coules, representing Kozys, commented on commissioners' desired outcome.

"I will go on the record to say, and I feel pretty confident, that the tone is nobody sitting up there really wants this house to come down, no matter what I say to you all tonight," Coules said. "It's more important what's being put there versus what is going to come down, because what is going to come down is going to come down. It's bad to say, but everybody has the right to do what they want to do with that property."

"Yes and no, Mr. Coules," Bohnen responded, encouraging him to listen to conversation about historic preservation at the March 3 Hinsdale Village Board meeting.

"We're going to find out whether there is sentiment in the village to preserve some of our heritage and some of our historic homes, specifically in the Robbins area but it other parts of town, too," Bohnen stated. "We're at that apex in Hinsdale, Mr. Coules. We're going to make a decision about whether we care about preserving our heritage and our historic homes."

Commissioner Sandy Williams, participating by phone, said the commission's purpose is to protect historic structures in Hinsdale.

"It isn't something we are doing because we like old houses. It truly is our mission as spelled out in the code," she said. "We're just trying to uphold the code."

When questioned by Bohnen, Kozys said he knew he was buying a house in a historic district and that he would be required to go through a process.

"There is no specific law that says you cannot demolish," he said.

Commissioners also held a public hearing on the property at 641 S. Elm St., where Julie and Doug Laux plan to tear down a 1925 French eclectic style home to build what Julie Laux called their "forever" home with a first-floor master suite.

"I was under the impression that you were renovating the home," Braden said to her.

"It was sold as a teardown if you look at the listing sheet," Laux responded.

Commissioner Shannon Weinberger praised Laux for her renovation of 321 S. County Line Road. Laux said she and her husband sold the home at a loss.

"The economics are difficult for a renovation. We nowhere near recouped the dollars we put in the house," she said, adding that it was not suited for an empty-nester couple.

Commissioner Jim Prisby congratulated the Lauxes on coming in early in the design process but said the first question needs to be what is wrong with the existing house that cannot be remedied.

"From this meeting forward, that is where all of my questions are going to go," he said.

Both applicants were asked to return with additional information.

Bohnen, who also lives in the Robbins Park Historic District, empathized with neighbors who spoke at he public hearing. The 1893-home at 244 E. First St. - next door to his - was torn down last week, and all the trees on the lot went with it.

"To have the neighbor come in and clear cut to build a Belgium farmhouse next to me in Hinsdale, Illinois - what can I say? We're all suffering through this," he said.

Author Bio

Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean

Email: [email protected]
Phone: 630-323-4422, ext. 104


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