I was recently in the Chicago area for an ASHI conference, and after checking into my nondescript hotel room, looked to see what the view was.
Imagine my surprise when I spotted this little oddity:
“What the heck is an old stone building doing in the parking lot between two hotel buildings?” I thought to myself. It looked kind of like a faux-old building that could have been the entrance to one of those tacky themed miniature golf courses. Luckily, I had time before heading home to walk over and take some pictures.
But when I got up close, I could see that it was indeed an old stone building, and it was in terrible shape. The exterior was covered with vines (which may have been dead, but it was mid-October, so maybe just dormant), and the wood showed significant decay. There were cracks in the stonework, but on the whole, the structure looked stable.
All sides of the house had fascinating details, like the wooden corbels under the second floor and the half-timber effect that was the hallmark of the Tudor style. I especially loved the random large stones set into the exterior wall.
It was popular during the early 20th century to have a built-in birdhouse on one or more gables. Birds were seen as natural insect control. I tried to get a definitive look at the roof to determine what the material was; I’m pretty sure it was some kind of slate or stone, and the green patina on the flashing was a sign that it was copper.
The stone stairs leading to the front stoop were quite worn, and the stoop showed signs of sinking. The whole front entry area was choked with vines.
Once I got home, I did some research and discovered that this was the last remnant of the 10-acre farm that once existed here. The architect, Arthur Swanson, lived on the farm from the depression years to the 1950s, but the actual construction date for this “gatehouse” is unknown. It was slated to be demolished when the surrounding property was undergoing renovations in 2016, but the developer decided to keep it standing, although there aren’t currently any plans to restore it.
You can read about the house in this article.
Do you know of any interesting architectural oddities in your area? I’d love to hear about them.