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Furniture Designer Plans to Tear Down 124-Year-Old East Wicker Park Home

By Alisa Hauser | February 4, 2014 10:31am
 Photos by VHT Studios of 1437 W. Blackhawk St.
Interior Photos of 1437 W. Blackhawk St.
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WICKER PARK — A small one-story house built in the late 1800s, and once listed as a "teardown with great bones," will be demolished by its new owner, a 31-year-old furniture designer who plans to build a new home there.

Located just east of Ashland Avenue at 1437 W. Blackhawk St., the east Wicker Park home was built 124 years ago, according to county records.

"If it was something I could salvage, I would. But the condition is very poor," said Luke Wong, the new owner of the 1,142-square-foot home, which he bought in October for $239,000.

Wong described the interior of the house as "dark and gloomy." The back half slopes down and a "tarp that's keeping the water out of the roof isn't doing its job anymore," he said.

Wong said he recently stapled the drapes to the walls to "keep people from looking in."

Photos of the interior of the home, which has since been cleared out, show missing ceiling tiles, clutter and a tarp covering a hole in the kitchen ceiling.

The home was owned by Susan Rendon, who relocated out of the area, according to Realtor MaryAnn Marsh with @properties, who represented Rendon.

"I had a lot of interest in that property before the sale. I think Wicker Park is making major strides," Marsh said.

Marsh said the home was once a restaurant and Rendon had been using the building as a single-family home for several years.

Mitch Hutton, who lives near the home, noted the structure was "a rarity" in that eastern part Wicker Park, which has few if any other houses that size.

"It sticks out because nobody else has a one-story house. The problem is when [buildings] get in that bad of shape, is it cost effective to fix it or to rip it down and put something else new? It is a different looking building, that's for sure, but it was neglected for so long," Hutton said.

Hutton said Susan Rendon's husband, Roy Rendon, worked for the railroad and when he passed away in April, Susan Rendon decided to sell the home.

"They were in the community for a long time, at least 50 years," Hutton said of the Rendons.

Marsh, the Realtor, called the home, "Not unlivable but not the best use."

"It's a great location with brand new homes. The best use is what [Wong] is trying to do with it: a brand new property," Marsh said.

The top facade of the building features pink tin and a decorative star-like insignia that Marsh said was handmade by an artist and designed by a Chicago architect and "should be preserved."

Marsh was unsure of which architect designed the tin facade. The building's address is not listed in a database of Chicago Historic Resources Survey, which is a basic starting point for assessing a building’s historic or architectural value.

On Tuesday, Hutton spoke with an elderly neighbor who told him that the building was once home to "Susie's Hot Dog Stand," which also served "good chili," according to the neighbor.

Wong aims to build a 2,800-square-foot, two-story home with roof access. He is requesting a zoning variance because his new home will take up a bigger footprint of the yard.

"The facade will be simple with a stone front," Wong said, adding, "I like modern but I'm not going to go super modern. I don't want it to stand out like a sore thumb."

Wong said he was "between architects at the moment and taking it slow, dealing first with the zoning request for the rear setback."

Wong sold his condo in the South Loop last year and has been living in an apartment around the corner from the home.

"I like the vicinity to the expressway, but it's far enough away that it's not a nuisance," Wong said of the location.