New entries mulled for historic listing

Village commission considers expanding the collection of preservation incentive prospects

The former homes of an acclaimed opera singer, a 19th-century local dance instructor and the visionary behind the village’s pioneering ice plant are among the latest candidates for Hinsdale’s Historically Significant Structures Property List.

At the March 6 historic preservation commission meeting, commissioners voted to recommend seven homes for the list. Inclusion on the list is required to be eligible for incentives to help with historically sensitive home improvements, including matching grant funds, a property tax rebate and special zoning relief.

The Tudor Revival/Craftsman-style residence at 200 Ravine Road, village planner Bethany Salmon told commissioners in her presentation, was once the home of Frances Elizabeth Coates Grace, an opera singer who was deeply involved in the music and civic activities of both Chicago and Hinsdale. An interesting side note is that Grace was a high school classmate and sometimes muse of Ernest Hemingway.

“She had some love letter connections with him when she was younger,” Salmon said, referencing a blog post on the Hinsdale Historical Society website that provides more background and a recording of Grace’s soprano vocals.

The 1926-built home at 546 N. County Line Road has a unique pedigree, Salmon said.

“We actually — through researching and working with the historical society — were able to find the original building permits, which does verify it’s an original Sears catalog home,” she said.

Subsequent alterations include the enclosure of the front porch and a rear addition, Salmon noted, but it still retains the original look.

“We haven’t had a property like this before,” she said.

The Tudor Revival house at 4 E. Fifth St. is noteworthy for both its designer — celebrated local architect R. Harold Zook — and a past resident.

“One of its first inhabitants was Frank D. Danielson, who was a former village manager,” Salmon reported.

As village manager, he drew on his engineering background to lead the effort to establish a municipal ice plant in 1922.

In his retrospective “Hinsdale,” author Timothy Bakken chronicled the revolutionary development, claiming it was “the first such enterprise in the United States.

“The village faithfully delivered ice for 20 years, even as expenses rose and demand dwindled,” he wrote.

The vintage 1910 house at 122 N. Park St. features a gambrel front and was once the home of Ella Warren, a member of prominent early Hinsdale family. The Warrens are mentioned in historian Hugh Dugan’s book “On the County Line.”

“Ella Warren taught dancing in the old Baptist Church (on the southwest corner of First and Garfield),” Dugan noted.

While growing up on Maple Street, Warren’s father and uncle would set up a large wooden platform between their adjacent homes for summer parties.

“The guests could pass from one house, across the dance floor, to the other,” Dugan wrote.

The home at 42 S. Quincy St. also is believed to be a Sears home, but Salmon reported that its provenance has not been confirmed.

“It was built in 1927 as Craftsman style,” Salmon said. “It’s in pretty good shape.”

The other homes recommended for the list by commissioners are the 1895-built cottage at 615 S. Washington St., which features a gable front, and the house at 565 N. Washington St, believed to have been constructed around 1922 in the Colonial Revival style.

In order to be included on the Historically Significant Structures Property List, a property must be located in the historic overlay district and meet one or more criteria, among which are an association with significant people, events or local history, or a style that embodies the distinctive characteristics of an architectural type, period or method of construction.

The village board is expected to take up the matter at an upcoming meeting. The preservation incentive-eligible list has grown to nearly 80 properties since it was launched in 2022.

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean