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Far Out in Rogers Park: Here's the Backstory on its Five Weirdest Homes

By Benjamin Woodard | November 11, 2013 6:30am
 The neighborhood, known for its eclectic style, has some of the city's oddest-looking houses.
Rogers Park's Weirdest Houses
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ROGERS PARK — Residents of the city's northernmost neighborhood take pride in being, well, "far out."

So it's only natural that some houses have become a reflection of the unique and peculiar nature of those who call Rogers Park home.

Perhaps you've seen the leopard-print house on Estes Avenue, or the Candyland-colored home on Pratt Boulevard.

But what's the deal with the house on Lunt Avenue — the one with the computer monitor in the front yard and all those car parts hanging from the trees?

Here's a the backstory behind Rogers Park's five weirdest homes — as told by their owners.

The Leopard-Print House — or is it Giraffe-Print?

A Leopard-print paint job wasn't Michael Riley's first choice for the outside of his home at 1625 W. Estes Ave.

"There were six people living in the house when we first moved in, and they wanted me to paint," said Riley, an artist, appliance repairman, electrician and carpenter by trade. "And so everyone had their criteria that seemed somewhat difficult to reconcile — and the only thing we could all agree on was leopard print."

So back in 2002, Riley said he got to work. Only the leopard print turned out to be a cross between that and a cheetah print, and now it looks more like a giraffe print.

Regardless, he said, "The children love it."

Despite the unique paint job, Riley said it's sometimes hard to live up to what people expect from the exterior.

"People may expect more from us than we’re capable of doing, in terms of pizzazz," he said.

The Candyland House

The outside of Jackie Seiden's house matches the inside. Everything is some shade of pastel blue, green, yellow, orange or pink.

"The inside grew into these pastel colors, and I carried them on to the outside," said the 76-year-old retired art teacher, who has lived at 1525 W. Pratt Blvd. for the last 40 years.

When she first moved in, she said, the house was painted a "drab olive green."

That had to go.

Now, the ceilings inside sparkle with a glitter-infused pastel pink, while a pair of pianos match the color scheme.

She said even the handles of her silverware are painted pastel.

The neighborhood kids call the home the "Barbie House."

Seiden said the inspiration for the colors came from sneaking into the now-defunct Edgewater Beach Hotel with her friends as a youth.

The "colored deco" style "really stuck with me," she said. "I'm insane."

The Front-Yard-Filled-With-Junk House

Mark Troitsky, 73, emigrated from the Soviet Union just before its collapse.

"It was the most horrible country in the world," he said, standing on the sidewalk outside his town house at 1790 W. Lunt Ave., where he lives with his wife, Olga.

His front yard, shared by his seemingly apathetic neighbors, is full of junk.

A 25-year-old computer monitor sits on a milk crate next to a few toy trucks. A slinky dangles from a tree alongside odd trash sculptures made from broken car parts and old CDs.

One is labeled "Bday Tunes."

Troitsky said he collects all the stuff while walking around the neighborhood. He said every Saturday he walks 3 miles to Devon Avenue shops to buy groceries.

A hubcap, an old toy put out by a garbage bin, a discarded extension cord — they all have value for Troitsky.

"I put it in a plastic bag, and I come home," he said, and up it goes into a tree or onto the front yard.

When the sun hits the collection of junk just right, Troitsky says, passersby call it "amazing. Some say marvelous, magnificent. It's beautiful."

The Toy Horse House

"Rogers Park is full of all kinds of offbeat people and nonconformists," said Irving Zucker, who lives at 1832 W. Lunt Ave., just up the block from Troitsky. "Throughout the neighborhood you're going to see people doing creative things."

The retired teacher lives at the home with friend Felipe Camacho, who said he was the "artist" in the house.

And for the last six years, their front yard has been decorated in a "cowboy theme" with a miniature teepee, cowboy dolls and toy horses measuring from 6-inches to 3-feet tall.

For Halloween, however, they outfitted the yard with ghoulish decorations that scared trick-or-treaters.

("They're a little too young for this dose of horror," he said.)

Next year, he said, they plan to turn the front yard into a mini Stonehenge.

"I'm kind of getting bored with the cowboys," said Zucker, 67, who had just returned early from a trip to Ethiopia after breaking his ankle on a hike.

Zucker added that he and Camacho were not "trying to make some profound artistic statement" with their front yard.

The Urban Farm House

Mo Cahill calls her home Moah's Ark. Her red two-flat is full of dogs, and her backyard is full of chickens.

One lot west, she has Rogers Park's only true urban farm.

The lot "has been sitting here empty for a long time, so I think everyone had their little fantasy of what they could do with it," she told DNAinfo Chicago earlier this year.

Her farm, at 1839 W. Touhy Ave., nestled between two-flat apartment buildings, has been a work in progress since Cahill and her husband purchased the property two years ago for $125,000.

Near the street, Cahill layered twigs, logs and other plant debris — dropped off by neighborhood landscapers — to create a long-lasting fertilizer base.

She said it'll be 15 years before the debris completely breaks down, but in the meantime, she hopes to plant apple trees and other permanent crops to create a small orchard. By the alley, she has plans to build a 20-by-40-foot barn.

Cahill describes the farm as her "brick-and-mortar retirement plan."

"I'm going to sit on my rocking chair under the eaves of my barn and talk to my chickens," the 58-year-old said. "I'm really into this for the solitude."