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Vinyl Removed From 1880s Wicker Wood Frame Building Offers Peek into Past

By Alisa Hauser | August 12, 2014 10:39am
 An 1880s-era wood frame building in Wicker Park is being renovated but in the meantime, passerby are being treated to a glimpse of the past.
Old Wood Frame Building in Wicker Park
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WICKER PARK — Neighbors are getting a new look at an old building, as workers have peeled away two layers of beige vinyl siding from a 130-year-old structure on Milwaukee Avenue.

"It sat there for a long time, and suddenly it changed," said Steve Lipe, a local developer and owner of the 1880s-era wood frame building, which is in Wicker Park's Historic Landmark District and, at least for a few days, sporting an original wood facade.

Alisa Hauser says the building's wood frame makes it look like a "wild West" structure, and she's not that far off:

In October, the city's Landmark Permit Review Committee denied Lipe's request to demolish the two-story building, which a Lipe-led venture called "1505 N. Milwaukee Ave. LLC" bought in January for $1.05 million, according to county records.

 A flashback to 1966: the 1501 N. Milwaukee Ave. building is at the northeast corner of Milwaukee Avenue and Honore Street.
A flashback to 1966: the 1501 N. Milwaukee Ave. building is at the northeast corner of Milwaukee Avenue and Honore Street.
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Courtesy of Lipe Property Company

"There is not a lot of it left. All that's left is the studs and the sheathing. It's leaning a bit to the side but apparently is stable and being supported by a lot of shoring, a bunch of angular wood pieces," Lipe said.

Located on the northwest corner of Honore Street and Milwaukee Avenue and across from Rick Bayless' Xoco Wicker Park, set to open on Thursday, the building was built in 1881.

Lipe said that new siding, expected to be installed within the next week, will be "a darker blue-gray" color and will blend in with the brick on a new four-story building being built next to the building at 1505 N. Milwaukee Ave, which eventually will house Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams.

As part of the renovations, Lipe is expanding behind the building too.

If all goes as planned, come late September, a local restaurant that has signed a lease to rent out the entire 4,400-square-foot building will be moving in and could be open around the holidays, Lipe said.

The extensive renovations, which began in February with an "architectural investigation," have included adding windows to the side of the building facing Honore Street, replacing the roof and lowering the front entrance to street level.

Lipe said he and his team have "gone through a huge effort to save the building" and that when the renovations are done "it will look like a very old new building."

A 2007 report by the city's Department of Planning and Development lists the building as "potentially contributing" to the Milwaukee Avenue Landmark District, where buildings are categorized into designations of "contributing," "not contributing," and "potentially contributing."

The building was originally a butcher shop with apartments above it, according to Our Urban Times.

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