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Historic Northwest Side Farmhouse Not 'Going to be Meigs Field': Owner

By Kyla Gardner | October 17, 2014 7:35am
 Preservationists are trying to stop the demolition of the home at 1648 W. Armitage Ave. in Belmont Cragin, one of the first homes built on the Northwest Side of Chicago.
Preservationists are trying to stop the demolition of the home at 1648 W. Armitage Ave. in Belmont Cragin, one of the first homes built on the Northwest Side of Chicago.
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Chicago Patterns/Gabriel Michael

CHICAGO — A historic farmhouse slated for demolition is not "going to be Meigs Field," said the owner of the property.

"The house is not going anywhere, and no demolition work is going to be done until all parties have a chance to try and come up with a resolution," said Grace Keane, co-owner of Keane Management, which owns the property and the demolition crew.

The farmhouse at 4618 W. Armitage Ave. was built in 1858 by Dutch pioneer James Van Natta and was one of the first homes on the Northwest Side of Chicago, then known as Jefferson Township.

"She really couldn't have been more supportive," said Ward Miller, director of Preservation Chicago. "She realized that the house had significance in terms of the development of the Northwest quadrant."

The home wasn't listed on the Chicago Historic Resources Survey, which was started in 1983 to analyze the historical importance of more than 17,000 buildings built before 1940. Inclusion on the list delays demolition for 90 days, but the Van Natta home wasn't flagged, so Keane wasn't aware until she heard from preservationists who saw the permit issued Oct. 2.

"I told [Miller] it wasn't going to be Meigs Field. I don't operate like that," Keane said, referring to the Northerly Island airport that was razed under the cover of night in 2003 by former Mayor Richard M. Daley.

Miller said he hopes the house can be preserved and perhaps become a community hub, like Comfort Station Logan Square. The Comfort Station building was built in the 1920s and has been saved from demolition several times. It is now used as a multidisciplinary art building.

Keane uses the lot at 4618 W. Armitage Ave. as a construction yard, which she said she could do from anywhere.

"We don't have an emotional tie to the site," she said.

Miller and Keane hope to work with Ald. Ray Suarez (31st) and the city to find a solution for preserving the home.

Some buildings — like a historic brick building in Chinatown — are not as lucky as the Van Natta home, Miller said.

"It's very refreshing that the owner was so responsive because a lot of the times, when the decision is made to tear down a building, that decision is made and it's pretty firm," Miller said.

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