Berwyn, Illinois




spindle08s

Originally uploaded by vincusses.

Lots of preservation issues in Berwyn – the local preservation movement there has been active for some time – our students did a survey of the village in 1999 and there has been some fascinating back-and-forth-and-into-the-bathroom-bribery-with-the-feds over the lovely Berwyn Bank Building, which is finally being saved.

There is the issue of the Spindle – centerpiece of a state marketing campaign, one of two Illinois sites in a recent tourism article in American Airlines magazine, the cover of a 1991 issue of Metropolitan Review, etc. This thing is an icon and it is so much more than 1980s irony in the middle of a shopping mall parking lot – but it is made of cars and it is in bad shape and needs an expensive fix.

Then there is the Sears house – one of the ubiquitous kit houses sold by the mail-order giant in the early 20th century and the object of preservation interest for about twenty years. The Berwyn Park District wants to demolish it for parkland (how many LEED points do you lose for kicking up that much toxic dust? What, none? Oh, I forgot, LEED is a manufacturer’s club that has as much to do with being green as the Lucky Charms Leprechaun has to do with being Irish.)

At any rate, Berwyn preservationists have at the least gotten the Park District to give them three months to find a new site and someone who will take the house for free and move it. We did this in Oak Park in ’99 with a very old 1860s farmhouse, but it might be a first for a kit house – even if the kit houses are by definition portable products. If you have a site for it, let me know, because saving it is far from easy.
The bold preservationists of Berwyn have a partial list of historic properties at http://www.batchgeocode.com/map/?i=c0bcfcd3e22a3fc98375cf0ea7cd992d

Of course, the greatest virtues of Berwyn are the stunning solid Chicago bungalows that make up huge chunks of its built fabric. These are solid, sustainable buildings that it doesn’t take a campaign – or a federal investigation – to save.

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