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City Mixes Up 2 Frank Lloyd Wright Houses When Stopping Restoration

By Sam Cholke | October 5, 2015 6:03am
 Kenwood neighbors were at a loss for how to preserve two Frank Lloyd masterpiece homes after rejecting an offer by Jennifer Pritzker to turn them into bed-and-breakfasts.
Wright Homes in Kenwood
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KENWOOD — The new owner of a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house was slapped with a stop work order for his neighbor’s Wright-designed house on Thursday.

Art Reliford and his wife, Elisa, bought the Blossom House and started restoring it after a plan by Jennifer Pritzker to turn the house into a bed and breakfast fell through over complaints from neighbors.

Reliford is in the middle of $850,000 in restoration work on one of Wright’s earliest houses at 4858 S. Kenwood Ave., where a large orange sign went up on Thursday ordering all work to stop immediately until the Commission on Chicago Landmarks signed off on it.

According to Reliford, the Department of Buildings quickly acknowledged the sign was meant for the neighboring house, the McArthur House, another home designed by Wright at the same time.

The sign only said that the work was not approved by the Landmark Commission, but did list the address for the McArthur House.

Pete Strazzabosco, a spokesman for the Department of Planning, said the windows on the McArthur House were being replaced without approval from Landmarks Commission, which must approve of certain changes to the exterior of homes in the Kenwood Landmark District.

Mimi Simon, a spokeswoman for the Department of Buildings, said the city was taking care of the mix-up and was issuing a violation to the McArthur House, requiring the owners to remove the work done without permits and restore the original construction of the house.

Workers were out at the McArthur House on Thursday and Friday painting and doing patch work on the stucco.

The Department of Buildings had no permits on file for work at the house since it was sold.

University of Chicago Molecular Engineering Professor Andrew Cleland and his wife, Ning Wang, bought the home at 4852 S. Kenwood Ave. in May 2014.

Cleland was unavailable to comment.

Both homes were originally part of a plan by a Pritzker’s nonprofit Tawani Foundation to restore the houses as a bed and breakfast. The plan was eventually scuttled over complaints from neighbors that it would be an unwelcome intrusion of commercial activity into the bedroom community.

The homes built in 1892 are rare examples of “bootleg” Wrights, homes he designed off the books while working for Adler and Sullivan.

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