29 Jun Demolition Permit Issued For Frank Lloyd Wright Home In Glencoe
GLENCOE, IL — With the clock ticking on the potential demolition of an early Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home in Glencoe, a preservation group is soliciting proposals to relocate the structure in order to save it.
Although its new owners have offered no assurances they will not raze the historic home, at least one North Shore resident has expressed an interest in moving the Sherman Booth Cottage from its current location at 239 Franklin Road.
Wright, the most famous architect in American history and among the 20th century’s most influential, designed the home in 1913 as a temporary home for Booth and his family. Booth, a founding member of the Glencoe Park District, was Wright’s lawyer and business partner in the development of the the Ravine Bluffs subdivision, now listed on the the National Register of Historic Places. Elizabeth Booth, his wife, was a leading suffragette who helped make Illinois the first state east of the Mississippi to grant voting rights to white women.
After the Booths moved into a completed home at 265 Sylvan Road, their one-story cottage was moved about 300 feet to the south in late 1916 or early 1917, according to the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, which, a century later, is for someone interested in moving the house again.
“While a number of modifications were made to the Cottage at the time of the original move, as well as since then, the signature elements of the Cottage’s design, elements that tie it to Wright’s later Usonian houses, shine through,” according to a statement from the group accompanying a request for proposals for potential relocation “These elements include its flat roof, banded windows and strong horizontal lines.”
In 1956, the house was purchased by Doris Rudoff, an artist and educator, and her husband Meyer, an architect. In 1996, the home was designated as a local landmark by the Glencoe Village Board and Glencoe Historic Preservation Commission. Mr. Rudoff died in 2003 and Ms. Rudoff in 2014.
But the property’s form of landmark designation does not prevent it from being bulldozed. Under Glencoe village code, the home is considered an “honorary” landmark rather than a “certified” landmark. That means demolition permits require a 180-day delay but can not be blocked by the preservation commission. Such delays are intended to allow for discussions to seek alternatives to demolitions.
Tina Colada, the daughter of the Rudoffs and a Virginia resident, put the home on the market with a $1 million asking price in October 2017. Its listing said Colada was looking for a “special buyer” interested in preserving the home. Her parents would not be happy if she allowed the home to be demolished, she told a reporter.
Village staff were informed in 2018 that Colada was interested in upgrading the property’s landmark status to “certified,” which would mean demolishing the house would require village approval.
“We got great news from the realtor representing the owner of the Booth Cottage,” said John Waters, an architect and manager of preservation programs for the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, in an email to staff.”He said she is interested in moving forward with certified landmarking!”
But that never ended up happening. Instead, a new realtor was put in charge of arranging the property’s sale.
The price was lowered to $825,000 in September 2018, cut again down to $600,000 in January and closed for $550,000 on May 9.
After Colada first accepted the offer for the house in April, Waters contacted village staff to let them know the property was under contract.
“[Realtor Diana Matichyn] tells us it is a preservation-minded buyer, who will be ‘taking on the renovation and restoration of the home.’ We hope this is the case,” Waters said.
“This is good news, it appears,” Village Manager Phil Kiraly said in response.
“I hope that the new buyers stick with that story,” responded Jordan Lester, deputy village clerk and staff liaison to the preservation commission.
They did not. Just over 10 days after closing on the historic home, the new owners began the process of seeking to destroy it.
In May, the home was purchased for $550,000 through an entity called 239 Franklin LLC, which lists the Riverwoods home of Justin Lu and Jean Yang as its address, according to property records. They could not be reached for comment.
It is not clear whether they plan to attempt to flip the property for profit or build and reside on a redeveloped lot. In correspondence with village staff, Yang refused to attend any meetings about the property until the countdown to a potential demolition began.
“We need to start 180 day demolition before I am attending any village meetings,” she said. “I am not willing to attend any village meeting until the first day of 180 day period.”
After the demolition application was completed, village officials coordinated a meeting with Yang, the conservancy’s executive director and village staff. The architectural preservation nonprofit said it is “assisting the new owner in finding a solution to preserve the Cottage at an alternate location.”
In the past 44 years, just one Wright-designed residential structure have been demolished, according to the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy. In 1974, the Francisco Terrace apartment building in Chicago and the Munkwitz Apartment in Milwaukee were both demolished, while the heavily altered W.S. Carr House in Grand Beach, Michigan, was razed in 2004.
At least one North Shore resident is preparing to make a formal offer to relocate the 105-year-old landmark.
Howard Barg, of Highland Park, is a landscape designer with an interest in Frank Lloyd Wright. He said hopes to move the original portions of the house — about 1,100 square feet of the house’s 1,755 square foot total — and expand it while preserving its design in tune with the period.
“My intention would be just to keep it intact and probably work with some restorer, in terms of an architect who specializes in this sort of timeframe,” Barg said. “That’s pretty much what I wanted to do with it — keep it restored, the way it is. Hopefully everything checks out in terms of finding the right situation with the current owners.”
The manager of 239 Franklin LLC is Lilita Bickuviene, according to state records, but Long Grove homebuilder Vytautas “Victor” Bickus confirmed he is also associated with the entity. However, he said he has not agreed to work with the Frank Lloyd Wright Conservancy, according to Crain’s Chicago Business.
“It doesn’t look to me like they want to work with us,” Bickus told Crain’s Thursday. “They just want to tell us we’re doing something wrong. But we’re acting within the letter of the law on the property that we bought.”
Bickus said he would listen to any offer to buy the property but has not determined whether a planned new construction might somehow incorporate the cottage, according to Crain’s.
“I don’t understand why people are so aggravated,” Bickus said, asking, “?”
Bickus hung up on a reporter when contacted for comment about the property after suggesting he was unhappy with the Crain’s article in which he was quoted.
State records show Bickus was a real estate broker until his license expired in 2014. According to the website of his current company, Hoyd Builders, he has built “close to 100 beautiful luxury homes” over the past decade. Images of its past projects indicate the firm specializes in sprawling suburban McMansion-style new constructions, and o accused him of modifying budget amounts on bank statements and misappropriating funds.
The 180-day demolition delay period is due to expire Nov. 30. According to staff, even once the delay period has been completed, the village must approve building plans before issuing a final permit allowing demolition operations to begin. Those interested in presenting relocation proposals to the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy have until July 26 to submit their responses.