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'Witch's Hat' Homeowner's Possessions Sold to Benefit Church

By Benjamin Woodard | December 10, 2013 7:42am
 John H. Dawson, who died in 2011, named his Rogers Park home "Witch's Hat" for its pronounced cupola.
John H. Dawson, who died in 2011, named his Rogers Park home "Witch's Hat" for its pronounced cupola.
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DNAinfo/Benjamin Woodard

ROGERS PARK — John H. Dawson, who died in 2011, and his late partner, James David Gibson, named their house the "Witch's Hat" for its most prominent architectural feature: the pronounced cupola perched atop the home's second floor.

But late last week, the future of the home remained uncertain as Dawson's friends held an estate sale to empty the home of a few pieces of furniture and appliances. Dawson willed his belongings to his church, but church members did not know what would happen to the home.

While there was a part-time live-in caretaker who kept an eye on the home, it has since gone into foreclosure and will be likely turned over to a bank after foreclosure proceedings come to an end, said Dawn Noldan, 53, who knew Dawson from North Shore Baptist Church in Edgewater, where they both attended services.

 The "Witch's Hat" sign above the home's front door
The "Witch's Hat" sign above the home's front door
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DNAinfo/Benjamin Woodard

"John just loved people, he was all about people. He didn't have any enemy in the world," she said. "That's what hurts so much about doing this."

Dawson bought the house at 7430 N. Paulina St. 22 years ago, according to property records. He lived there with his partner, and they put a wood sign above the front door that says, "Witch's Hat."

The sign remains on the house.

The home's unique name — and former occupants — has long been talked about around the neighborhood. When a neon green sign was posted last week on its front window, advertising an "everything must go" sale, neighborhood residents took notice on a neighborhood blog.

"A lot of neighbors have come to ask us questions" about the house, said Noldan's 73-year-old mother, Carol Noldan, of Uptown.

She remembered Dawson's legacy fondly.

They both began attending North Shore Baptist "as babies," she said.

The retired Navy commander had been stationed in Korea during the Korean War, she said. Then, when he came home, he went to work in the financial sector.

"There wasn't anything [he] wouldn't do for people, especially children," she said. "He was such a giving person. You meet maybe two or three in your lifetime that were like him."

She said Dawson died of cancer on Jan. 1, 2011, two days after his 67th birthday.

One of the Noldans' fondest memories of their friend was from Dawson's final days.

As he lay on his death bed in his living room, which faced the street, Noldan said she and a group from the church came to sing him Christmas carols.

While they sang from the sidewalk, he mustered the strength to wave his hands back and forth, like a conductor standing before a choir.

"That's the kind of thing John inspired," Noldan said.