LOSS: Hofsten House at 5545 S. Woodlawn Avenue Demolished

Hugo Olof von Hofsten House, 1894, Dewitt Taylor Kennard,5545 S. Woodlawn Avenue. Photo credit: 1st Look Media
Hugo Olof von Hofsten House, 1894, Dewitt Taylor Kennard,5545 S. Woodlawn Avenue. Photo credit: 1st Look Media
Hugo Olof von Hofsten House, 1894, Dewitt Taylor Kennard,5545 S. Woodlawn Avenue. Photo credit: 1st Look Media

“A second home built in the 1890s on the 5500 block of South Woodlawn Avenue is slated for demolition, leading neighbors to push again for the protection of a strip of historic Hyde Park homes.

“Predating Hyde Park’s annexation into Chicago, the block was built out during the early days of the University of Chicago bringing in top faculty. Over the years, it has hosted a number of notable Hyde Parkers.

“‘This is really just a waste, to see this building on Woodlawn demolished and replaced with something which oftentimes is substandard to what’s present on the site,’ said Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago. Miller noted that this block of Woodlawn has been a longstanding concern for the group. ‘This is a landmark district in waiting,’ he said.

“The house, 5545 S. Woodlawn Ave., sold in January for $1.4 million to Champ Enterprises and was purchased with a $1.12 million mortgage, according to files from the Cook County Recorder of Deeds. A demolition permit was issued on May 17. As of press time, it was not clear exactly when the demolition would take place.

“The Woodlawn home was built in 1894 by architect Dewitt Taylor Kennard, who was trained under Joseph Lyman Silsbee, the first employer of Frank Lloyd Wright, according to preservation historian Andrew Elders. The home was built for artist Hugo Olof von Hofsten, a Swedish immigrant who worked as an illustrator for newspapers in Chicago and New York. He also excelled in portraiture and landscape painting, exhibiting works locally.

“Its most recent owner was the son of Allison Kate Hartman, a Hyde Park auto mechanic, lawyer and community activist. Hartman was a second-generation owner of the house, inheriting it from her parents, James Lea Cate and Frances Cate. James Lea Caet was a military veteran and U. of C. history professor.

“According to Preservation Chicago, the house has also hosted Enrico Fermi, the famous nuclear age physicist, and writer Saul Bellow, among others.

“The four-bedroom, 3,100-square-foot Georgian house’s interior is run down in sections, but includes many original features like its living room, staircase, wood paneling and ceiling beams, according to Crain’s. The outer facade is brick, and is topped with a pediment and medallion window. Pillars hold up a second, smaller pediment over the front stoop.

“The Kenwood portion of Woodlawn Avenue, from 47th to 51st streets, is protected from demolition or non-historic facade alterations as part of the landmarked Kenwood Historic District established in 1979. Historic homes in Hyde Park between 55th and 58th streets remain unprotected. (Kenwood is also home to another landmarked district, the North Kenwood Multiple Resource District).

“‘Woodlawn Avenue is the main street of Hyde Park,’ said Hyde Park Historical Society (HPHS) Preservation Committee Chair Jack Spicer. ‘It’s an extremely unique three-block run of late 19th-century, early 20th-century houses. There’s nothing quite like it in the rest of the city … If the current real estate pressure increases, houses on those three blocks could begin dropping like dominoes.’

“In 2012, the Woodlawn Homeowners Association pushed to establish a landmark district, or a ‘Woodlawn Avenue Corridor,’ on the street. Though more than half of affected property owners were in favor of it, the proposal never reached the Chicago Landmarks Commission.

“‘There’s just never never been the political will to do a landmark district within Hyde Park,’ Miller said. ‘Previous elected officials have frowned upon that.’ Residents have reached out to new 5th Ward Ald. Desmon Yancy for his support.

“Miller said Preservation Chicago has reached out to the owners to talk to them about the alternatives to a full demolition, noting the tax benefits and other incentives associated with landmarking.” (Pharo, Hyde Park Herald, 5/26/23)

“Opportunities like this don’t come very often! This historical masterpiece is ready for its new owners and design. This truly is the opportunity of a lifetime. Create your dream home with this amazingly built piece of history. Built in 1910, owned by the same family for over 80 years. In the most prime location of Hyde Park, 5545 S Woodlawn has hosted some of the most famous people in history. From Enrico Fermi to authors Saul Bellow and Norman Maclean, to University President Robert Maynard Hutchins, and so many more.

“This massive 4 bedroom, 2-1/2 bath has so much opportunity. Original hardwood, woodwork, doors, and untouched layout. Main floor grand entrance allows you to feel the history rushing towards you. Both main floor and 2nd floor offer 10ft ceilings. Main floor front room can be a great office. 3rd floor attic can be dormer into another level of living. Full basement can be converted into an English basement, with current plumbing for a bathroom. Gigantic yard leads you to a newer 3 car garage. If you want history, location, and super close to the University and the Hospital, and all that Hyde Park offers, this is your next project. Home sold As-Is.” (5545 S Woodlawn Ave Listing)


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here
Captcha verification failed!
CAPTCHA user score failed. Please contact us!