WIN: Nuveen House Receives Preliminary Landmark Protection

The Nuveen House is a graceful, Queen Anne style house in the historic Old Irving Park community. Located at 3916 N. Tripp Avenue, it was built by John Nuveen as his primary residence in 1892. The house has a large porch, projecting bays, a square tower, decorative gables, art glass windows, and a complex roofline. The architect is unconfirmed but believed to be Clarence H. Tabor, who also designed the nearby Chicago Landmark Charles N. Loucks House at 3926 N. Keeler Avenue.

The Nuveen House sits on an oversized 56 x 163 lot so it is highly attractive to developers. Preservation Chicago strongly opposes the trend of side yards in residential communities being targeted by developers for infill development, as this green space is an important asset to protect. The property was recently purchased by a developer with plans to demolish the house and replace it with new construction. Preservation Chicago has been working closely with Cathey Curley, the Irving Park Historical Society, leadership within the Old Irving Park community, 45th Ward Alderman John Arena, and the City of Chicago Landmark Division to save this house from demolition. Ideally, the house would be sold to a preservation-oriented buyer and designated as a Chicago Landmark.

During the Landmarks Commission meeting, Alderman Arena said, “When we have an opportunity like this that really helps define Old Irving Park by its nature, then I think it’s our role to work to preserve that. I fear if we continue this process and don’t protect Old Irving Park, we’re going to have to re-name it ‘New Irving Park.’” (Rice, Block Club Chicago, 3/15/19)

After a significant advocacy effort during the March 7, 2019 meeting, the Nuveen House was granted Preliminary Landmark Designation by the Commission of Chicago Landmarks which protects it from demolition.

The attorney for the developer objected to the preliminary designation claiming that the house was structurally unsound, declaring John Nuveen a “loan shark,” and stating that developer client “wasn’t greedy” and would be willing to sell the house for what he paid for it. According to city records, the house was purchased in July 2018 for $500. The house has been relisted for sale for $575,000.

Nuveen founded The John Nuveen Company, a financial investment firm which became a major underwriter of municipal bonds around the turn of the 20th century. The firm became a primary source of capital for the public works projects undertaken by the country’s cities, counties, and states. Accordingly, John Nuveen figured prominently in the massive effort to build the nation’s infrastructure during the 20th century.

Old Irving Park has a wonderful, largely intact neighborhood of historic homes. While there is a National Register District in place, National Register Districts provide no protection against demolition. It is important to create a Designated Chicago Landmark District to protect the Old Irving Park neighborhood before more developers buy and demolish historic homes on the oversized lots that are characteristic of the neighborhood. Preservation Chicago has been working with the Old Irving Park Historical Society, Alderman Arena and his office, City of Chicago historic preservation staff and other stakeholders to advance this effort.

Additional Reading
Neighbors, Preservationists Fight To Save Home Built By John Nuveen In Old Irving Park, “I fear if we continue this process and don’t protect Old Irving Park, we’re going to have to re-name it ‘New Irving Park,'” Ald. John Arena said, Linze Rice, Block Club Chicago, 3/15/19)

Preliminary Landmark Report, March 2019, John Nuveen House, 3916 N. Tripp Avenue


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