WIN: Landmark Gerber House Sold to Preservation-Oriented Buyers

“Built in 1885, the limestone row house has been owned since 1985 by Shirley and Norman Baugher. The four-bedroom, 3,000-square-foot home came on the market Jan. 13, priced at just under $1.5 million. Listing agent Peter Neagle of Jameson Sotheby’s International Realty marked it ‘contingent’ four days later.

“Norman Baugher told Crain’s ‘we were always proud’ of the home’s role in history, but declined to comment further. His wife, who died in October, ‘was really the one to speak about this,’ he said.

“In June 2021, Shirley Baugher told a WBEZ reporter that she was ‘delighted’ about the home’s history. “I’m very pleased they were here, advocating for” the rights of gay men in the 1920s, when it was deeply unpopular to do so.

“In 1924, Henry Gerber, a German immigrant and veteran of the U.S. Army, led several friends in organizing the Society for Human Rights, whose goal was to ‘promote and protect the interests of people who are abused and hindered in the legal pursuit of happiness which is guaranteed them by the Declaration of Independence and to combat the public prejudices against them.’

“The Society for Human Rights received a charter from the state of Illinois, making it the nation’s first documented gay rights organization. This was decades before the Mattachine Society launched in Los Angeles in 1950 and the conflagration at the Stonewall Inn in New York helped move gay rights forward. The group published a newsletter called “Friendship & Freedom.”

“The Crilly Court property was a row house at the time. The Society for Human Rights held some meetings in the basement, and Gerber and Henry Teacutter, another of the group’s seven founders, each rented rooms upstairs. Shirley Baugher said in 2021 that all those spaces were long ago renovated and do not look as they would have in the 1920s. (Rodkin, Crain’s Chicago Business, 1/17/23)

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