“A row house that is one of just six remaining from an 1890s low-cost housing block designed by Frank Lloyd Wright sits vacant and severely rundown inside, with its owners of two decades now trying to sell it to a savior..
“The one-bedroom row house on Walnut Street is part of the Waller Apartments, built as a companion piece to Francisco Terrace, another set of low-cost units around the corner on Francisco Street. Wright designed them for real estate developer Edward C. Waller as affordable rentals in the East Garfield Park neighborhood.
“The facade has details that don’t typify low-cost housing: large terra cotta plaques, stone columns dividing some windows, a ‘string of pearls’ ornament along the roof line and brick details that suggest Wright’s Prairie Style.
“First listed in April 2023, the row house at 2846 W. Walnut has gone under contract twice in recent months without the sale going through. It came back on the market July 21, priced at $75,000. ‘We need somebody to buy this and save it,’ Schiller says.
“The problems are formidable. The interior is completely gutted and would require a total rebuild, the roof is badly damaged, according to Schiller, and the water was shut off after a pipe burst and spewed into the basement for several months. Out back, there’s virtually no space that residents could use for rear entry because a commercial property on the next block owns the land to within a few feet of the building.
“Even so, the property is not only handsome on the outside but is also a piece of Chicago’s architectural patrimony, designed by a world-leading architect for a developer of low-cost housing. It’s also a physical piece of a connected row, sharing walls with its neighbors. Its decay could threaten their viability.
“Next-door neighbor Marie Veski says the condition of the row house ‘absolutely’ worries her. Because it’s not heated inside and her unit is, Veski says, ‘the walls can shift and move and crack. On top of that, we get raccoons and cats and possums in there. It’s a zoo.'” (Rodkin, Crain’s Chicago Business, 8/10/23)
Preservation Chicago has been been advocating to bring about a preservation-oriented outcome for the Waller Rowhouse at 2846 W. Walnut. We’re working closely with stakeholders including potential developers, alderman, and preservation partners. An engineering assesment has been conducted to better understand the condition of the building and the scope of work required for its restoration. A significant complicating factor is that a vacant rear yard behind the rowhouses is owned by a New York-based real estate company. The absentee ownership and landbanking of this parcel is a significant obstacle for preservation -oriented developers to move forward with the project. Preservation Chicago has initiated conversations with the owner to explore a potential sale, but they appear uninterested and dismissive.