Event designed to spark interest in Zook

New video, tours will acquaint guests with architect, funds needed to save properties

When's the last time you've been out to see the Zook Home and Studio at KLM?

Members of the Hinsdale Historical Society would like to invite you for a visit.

The society is hosting a special event, "Take a Look at Zook," on Tuesday, Sept. 22, to raise awareness of this Hinsdale architect and the funds needed to continue renovations on his home and studio (see Page 34 for details).

Noted architect R. Harold Zook, who designed more than 30 homes and commercial buildings in town, is a focus this year for new Hinsdale Historical Society Board President Kristen Laakso.

"I wanted to kick of my year as kind of 'The Year of Zook,' " she said.

The event features the premiere of a new video, "A Web of History - A Recollection of R. Harold Zook's Designs and Influence on Hinsdale." The piece helps explain Zook's significance here in town and beyond.

Fellow historical society board member Alexis Braden, who wrote the script, said she enjoyed learning more about the architect, including his failed bid to design the Tribune Tower and his stint as a professor at the Art Institute of Chicago.

"I really wanted to do something a little bit more educational on Zook himself and kind of the trials and tribulations that he went through before he started home building," she said. "I wanted to explore his life and the significance it had on Hinsdale."

The video also explains the resources required to preserve his home and studio, which Zook built for himself and his wife in 1924, at 327 S. Oak St. The home, which was owned by Lavinia Tackbury at the time, was in danger of being demolished before the historical stepped in and raised $800,000 to save the home and move it to KLM in 2005. Initial work involved stabilizing the home structurally, removing additions, repairing exterior masonry, removing and cleaning windows and installing a new roof. Various projects have been undertaken since that time as funds have become available, Laakso said.

Much more needs to be done.

Phase 1 work, which includes drywall installation and sewer and electrical hookups, is estimated to cost about $500,000, Laakso said. Finishing the renovation could cost another $500,000.

Board members are continuing to discuss how the building will be used in the future. Ideas range from creating leasable office space for architects to renting it out for weddings or other events.

The society typically relies on its spring Hinsdale Cooks! Kitchen Walk to raise money to support its three properties - the Zook Home and Studio, Immanuel Hall and the Hinsdale History Museum. This year's event was canceled due to COVID-19, and it's unlikely the spring 2021 walk will happen, Laakso said. Those two events would have generated about $250,000 in revenue.

Laakso, who presided over her first board meeting Monday, said she has been thinking about her role as president and the board's role as stewards of the time, effort and money people have donated to support the society's three properties.

"I really look forward to bridging the efforts of the past with what could potentially happen in the future," she said.

The Sept. 22 event will feature exterior tours of the home and studio. Braden said she hopes participants also will get a peek at the interior of the home.

"We're hoping to open the doors so they can get a good look into the grand living room of Lavinia's former home," Braden said.

Laakso said she's excited for people to see Zook's "creative designs and charming vignettes," which she finds uplifting.

"I'm looking forward to seeing people become enthusiastic and fans of Zook and what that kind of architectural gem can do for our community and sense of belonging," she said. "I think people in this town will find a cause they can stand behind and do whatever they can to help that lovely little refuge up there, find a way to use it that the community can benefit from."

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean