Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Society of St. Barbara Takes on my Challenge

JD Powers, who writes the extremely interesting Society of St. Barbara Blog (now from Wilmette) has taken on my challenge (in the comments of my previous post) to explain why the Trustees have done a good job managing teardowns. He has put up a great post with plenty of pictures, and I recommend that readers click here to see it.
The teardown issue may end up being a "chacon a son gout" issue. JD makes several good points, but I have a few comments, too:
1. Georgian houses should remain firmly Georgian. They should never combine disparate design elements such as long farmhouse-style front porches with wooden banisters.
2. Kenilworth has a number of teardowns that are very consistent with the neighborhood look, and they do it all through social pressure, not laws. Nevertheless, I can think of at least one example with disparate design elements that ends up, on closer examination, just looking weird.
3. The house with the stone fortress front and prairie-style windows, and old-style wooden farmhouse behind looks bizarre. No unity of design. I certainly hope those aren't those new-style stone bricks with drilled holes slipped over rebar--if you're going to do masonry, get a mason. I will say this, though, the stainless steel chimney liner (for a high efficiency furnace) appears to be nicely camouflaged. Good job there
4. Tearing down small houses means less affordable housing. I can't see the point of putting up mid-rises with tiny apartments to make up for them. I am mindful that the experience of the City of Chicago. They tore down tons of tiny "substandard" houses and replaced them with "beautiful" new high rises, only to have to implode them less than a generation later due to the social problems they created.
Well, that's it. JB did a great job with the challenge. He is quite satisfied with the job done by the Wilmette Trustees when it comes to replacement housing, even though he has to hit his head on what I guess is the ceiling of his new Wilmette home.
If you read JB's post, we absolutely concur on one point: the Trustees should not get involved in "appearance review." Kudos to them all for avoiding that! We have plenty of funky, individualistic homes in Wilmette, and a few more won't hurt.
Photo: Astute readers will recognize the lovely old house, above, as Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House. It's not in Wilmette, but in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago. Is that cheating? Most Wright houses have leaky roofs; they are famous for that. Early in his career, Mr. Wright worked for the "Daniel Burnham firm" that JD refers to in his post. Like our Trustees, Frank Lloyd Wright had an interest in affordable housing--click here to see copies of his orisinal Usonian House drawings.


Blogger JB Powers said...

I generally agree with you on this, but these houses replaced some huts that were never meant to stand for more than 25 years or so.

The rebuilds are not perfect, but they look much better than what they replaced, and show some thought towards blending in with the neighbors.

Thanks for cross post!

Mar 20, 2007, 3:35:00 PM  
Blogger Publia said...

I am looking forward to more of your Wilmette posts! We should think of more challenges.

Mar 22, 2007, 4:31:00 AM  
Blogger Homer said...

Robie House in Oak Park? Check those facts!

Mar 26, 2007, 9:40:00 AM  
Blogger Publia said...

Homer, you are right and I am wrong. Robie House is in Hyde Park, which is in Chicago, NOT Oak Park. Thanks for pointing that out. I have changed my post to correct my mistake.

Sep 21, 2007, 12:59:00 PM  
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