HPC deems legacy homes significant

Preservation initiative advances with first properties added to historic structures list

The effort to preserve Hinsdale's architectural heritage gained ground last week with the recommendation of nearly four dozen homes for inclusion on the village's Historically Significant Structures list.

At the Feb. 1 Historic Preservation Commission meeting, commissioners considered 47 houses for the list. Each property was evaluated as to its ability to satisfy at least one of the following criteria:

• associated with historically significant events

• associated with a significant historical figure

• has distinctive architectural characteristics, is the work of a master, possesses high artistic values or represents a significant and distinguishable entity

• yields, or may be likely to yield, information important to the village's history or prehistory

• significant in local, regional, state or national history, architecture, archeology, engineering or culture

• is a source of civic pride or identity for the community

The list was established last September as part of the creation of the Historic Overlay District, aimed at promoting the preservation, restoration and rehabilitation of historically significant properties. Homes on the list are eligible for incentives such as relaxed or waived zoning regulations, property tax rebates and matching grant funds.

"The district allows the village to provide a suite of historic preservation incentives," Hinsdale Village Planner Bethany Salmon told commissioners.

While many of the properties lie in the Robbins Park Historic District, they are located in other neighborhoods as well, Salmon reported.

"We've seen a lot of homes that have come down in our Robbins Park district, but we wanted to make sure that we had a way to make this eligible for basically anywhere in the village," Salmon said.

Homeowners consented to their homes to be considered. Salmon said the commission's evaluation helps ensure the properties are worthy of inclusion.

"We do want to make sure we review these homes, make sure they're still historic and that there's reason for them to be on this list," she said.

Commissioners discussed which, if any, of the criteria applied to each home. A majority were cited for their historical and/or architectural significance, while several were identified for an association with a significant person from the past. A few were deemed to meet all six criteria, such as the 1891 Raftree Residence at 114 S. Stough St. and the Queen Anne at 239 E. Walnut St.

The only candidate that prompted debate was 309 E. Chicago Ave., built in the late 19th century but recently renovated to give the exterior a modern look.

Commissioner Jim Prisby expressed reservations about the home's character after the updates.

"This one's just really a good example of when are the changes significant enough to render it no longer historically significant," he said.

But commission Chairman John Bohnen said the work preserved the original structure and just gave it a contemporary aesthetic, exhibiting "innovation" and "civic concern."

"I think they should be credited for the fact that they saved houses in Hinsdale," he said of homeowners who undertake such projects. "We don't want these people to not keep these houses."

In the end, commissioners agreed to gather more information on that property for further consideration at their March 1 meeting. The other 46 were recommended for village board approval (see sidebar).

Salmon told commissioners that more requests for consideration from homeowners are pending.

"We do have a lot of people who have reached out and are like, 'When can I get on the next round?' " she said, adding that next set will not be quite as lengthy.

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean