POTENTIAL WIN: Adaptive Reuse Proposal Received for Pike House/Watchman’s Residence

“A Far South Side arts group is hoping to repurpose a long-vacant, dilapidated historical home in the Dan Ryan Woods as their new headquarters, as neighbors push to stop the building from being torn down.

“The Eugene S. Pike House, inside the National Register-listed Ridge Historic District at 1826 W. 91st St, has been vacant for years. Landmarks Illinois listed it as one of the state’s most endangered properties last year, saying it needs an outside investor to bring it back to life.

“It was originally built in the late-19th century for Eugene S. Pike, a prominent Chicago real estate developer who was instrumental in rebuilding the city after the Great Chicago Fire. Its architect, Henry Hale Waterman, was a noted prairie school architect who worked with the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright, George Maher and other prominent house designers of the late 1800s and early 1900s.

“The agency issued a request for expressions of interest, a more informal solicitation than a traditional request for proposals, in April 2022 as a way to potentially prevent demolition.

Far South Side historical and preservation organizations are pushing to keep the house standing.

“The Pike House is a unique structure with its red sandstone and adds a lot of presence and character to the neighborhood,” Debbie Nemeth, president of the Beverly-based Ridge Historical Society, told Block Club.

“Pike House Foundation, a separate entity from the Ridge Historical Society and Beverly Area Planning Association, previously teamed up to organize to preserve the house. Mati Maldre, a board member, was among a group of people invited to tour the building when its preservation came into greater focus in recent months.

“The Beverly Area Arts Alliance wants to use the building as a ‘home base,’ complete with artist galleries and events. The Pike House Foundation is working with them on finding the funding to renovate and maintain the building long-term.

“‘The Pike House is an excellent location to host artists, musicians and writers in residence, and invite the community to gallery exhibitions, workshops, concerts, readings and more. The Alliance can serve as an arts partner, activating the space to coincide with and support other uses as well, such as a special event space, yoga studio, rehearsal space for musicians or educational or community gathering space.’

“But the primary motivation of the Forest Preserve is to preserve open space, and a structure like the Pike House doesn’t necessarily fall into that category.

“‘When the Forest Preserves of Cook County acquires land, we understand that some properties include buildings that have a history,’ Carl Vogel, communications director for the Forest Preserve, said in a statement. ‘That said, the mission of the Forest Preserves is to protect and preserve natural open space for public use, education and enjoyment. We are not able to spend deeply on building restoration that does not align with this mission.’

“This time around, Vogel said the Forest Preserve appreciates ‘the enthusiasm in the community to restore the Pike House. We have worked and continue to work to find a way to preserve this building while investing within our mission.'” (Moran, Block Club Chicago, 6/7/23)

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