THREATENED: Dispute Over Historic Tours at Edgar Miller Designed Glasner Studio Results in Legal Actions

Petition to Landmark the Kogen-Miller and Glasner Studios! Image Credit: Change.org

“Chicago boasts some of the finest art and architecture in the world, resulting in throngs of tourists visiting historic homes and buildings every year. But one gem has been off-limits to scholars, architecture enthusiasts and lovers of art for several years because of a legal dispute.

“At issue is a condominium at 1734 N. Wells St., known as the Glasner Studio, that was a party house for wealthy Chicago industrialist Rudolph Glasner. Between 1928 and 1932, the unit was converted by Chicago artist Edgar Miller and developer Sol Kogen into the Kogen-Miller Studios, a new colony where artists were allowed to stay in exchange for their work on rehabbing the building.

“Kogen bought the building. Miller, a multi-talented artist who came to Chicago from his native Idaho to attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, made it his crowning work in a career spanning genres, styles and mediums. Miller died in 1993 at age 93.

“From 2016 to 2018, the unit was home to the Edgar Miller Legacy, a nonprofit that would host tours of the studio. Now, it is at the center of a legal dispute between the three condo owners in the building — Julie Bleicher, a co-owner of the Glasner Studio, and Glenn Aldinger and Ronald Cieslak, the two other owners of condos in the building.

“Bleicher inherited her condo from her brother Mark Mamolen, who was a close friend of Miller. Mamolen bought the studio in 2000; he died in December 2013 and willed it to Bleicher and her two sons.

“Julie’s son Zac Bleicher founded The Edgar Miller Legacy and lives in the unit. When the organization achieved nonprofit status in 2016, it listed the Wells Street address as its headquarters. That’s the same year it began to give tours to lovers of art, architecture and history.

“Zac Bleicher said the Edgar Miller Legacy hosted tours for 10 to 30 people at a time — and that the two other owners in the condominium complex attended several Legacy meetings, get-togethers and tours before having a change of heart.

“Aldinger and Cieslak contend frequent, large tours infringed on their lifestyle, and that Zac Bleicher took advantage of their willingness to overlook a condominium association rule against using a condo as a place of work.

“‘Once we were out in the courtyard having a barbecue and this parade of people started coming through, taking pictures of us,’ Aldinger said. ‘It was very intrusive.’

“Bleicher contends Aldinger was initially on board, hoping the Legacy and its tours would boost property values. But, according to Zac Bleicher, Aldinger’s support waned after an appraisal came in lower than what he deemed adequate.

“Aldinger said although he has a second home, he has lived in the building for 50 years. He also is interested in selling, he added, and the appraisal had nothing to do with his opposition to the tours.

“‘The Glasner Studio is truly a Chicago treasure,’ said Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago, a group that fights to save historic architecture. ‘It’s unfortunate that these legal conflicts are keeping people from visiting this remarkable house that is truly a work of art by a very well-known artist.'” (Bob Chiarito, Chicago Sun-Times, 12/26/22)

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