Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Lenke, Horn & Conway Houses, Pierce Avenue, Chicago
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Lenke, Horn & Conway Houses, Pierce Avenue, Chicago (1890) Lutken & Thisslew, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

On August 24, 1890 the Chicago Tribune's Real Estate Transaction column carried a small item stating that, "Lutken & Thisslew are preparing plans for 3 handsome stone front residences to be built on Ewing Place, near Wicker Park. They will have steam heat and all conveniences, and cost $25,000." After that Lutken disappears from sight, but Charles Thisslew went on to design a number of apartment "flat" buildings in the city, factories, and in 1900 a large three building complex for Norwegian Deaconess Lutheran Hospital. The three single family dwellings the architects designed for Ewing Place, which came to be called Pierce Avenue, were identical on the face of it except for the use of a different stone on the middle one at No. 85 Ewing, or today's 2150 W. Pierce Avenue.

  [Lenke, Horn & Conway Houses, Pierce Avenue, Chicago, Michael W. Conway Residence, 2146 W. Pierce Avenue, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The easternmost residence was originally the home of the Michael Conway family. The house was also once occupied by Judge & Mrs. Kickham Scanlan, all prominent enough persons to have been listed in Chicago's Blue Book, a directory of social exclusivity. Unfortunately the original, second story double-window arrangement was altered at some point and turned into a large single-paned window. But the arches above the two windows remained and still top-off the larger opening.

  [Lenke, Horn & Conway Houses, Pierce Avenue, Chicago, John C. Horn Residence, 2150 W. Pierce Avenue, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

 Sitting in the middle is the former home of John C. Horn, a furniture manufacturer who joined his Ewing Avenue neighbors on the Blue Book list in 1902. Many of Wicker Park's property owners were men of means, not necessarily millionaires but definitely members of the upper middle class with the requisite number of servants and club memberships. Lutken & Thisslew chose limestone for their middle house, which has withstood the ravages of freezing winter temperatures and boiling hot summers in much better shape than its neighbors. 2150 Pierce has also held on to its original front porch, which makes it the the most intact facade of the three.

[Lenke, Horn & Conway Houses, Pierce Avenue, Chicago, August Lenke Residence, 2154 W. Pierce Avenue, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The third, and westernmost of the trio of Romanesque Revival, rusticated stone houses  was owned by August Lenke, a partner in a Chicago coal company. What makes the Lenke house unique is that its owners were the longest original occupant family of the three. When the widower died in 1929 at the age of 88, he had lived at 2156 W. Pierce (formerly No. 93 Ewing Place) for almost 40 years. Soon after his death as the neighborhood changed, large single family homes like his were divided into multi-unit dwellings. In the early 1980s, many of Wicker Park's grand old houses had been divided into so many rooms that they were shells of their former selves and often could be purchased for less than their original 1890s construction costs. But as the neighborhood changed once again from poor to more affluent, housing prices skyrocketed. The Conway/Scanlan house which cost $25,000 in 1890 sold for $1.52 million in 2007. Based solely on inflation, $25,000 in 1890 was worth $570,000 in 2007. To look at it another way, if you bought something in 2007 for $25,000 it would have cost you $1,127 in 1890. Of course, 2007 real estate dollars may not be worth as much as 2011 dollars given today's market. Last Tuesday it was reported that 38% of area homes are underwater.

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