HYDE PARK — A block of Woodlawn Avenue is about to get its first new house in nearly 100 years.
Neighborhood preservationists’ ears perked up when a construction permit was issued Sept. 27 for a new house at 5549 S. Woodlawn Ave., which is currently a stucco house that dates back to the 1880s. It sits on a street lined with historic homes just up from the University of Chicago campus.
“A historic part of our urban fabric that has withstood nearly 140 years of history is about to vanish,” said Susan O’Connor Davis, author of “Chicago’s Historic Hyde Park,” a survey of the neighborhood’s notable architecture.
On Tuesday, new homeowner Sanjog Misra, a marketing professor at the university’s Booth School of Business, said he wanted to restore the house, but after moving in last year, quickly found out it wasn’t going to be possible.
“It was a tough decision,” Misra said about tearing down the first home built on the block.
The house has no landmark or historic district protections that would otherwise slow or stop demolition.
He said when his family moved in last year, they found there was more water damage than they originally thought, which had led to a mold problem that was causing increasingly worse health problems for his family.
Misra said he bought the house because he’s an architecture fan and now wants to build something that fits in better on the block.
“It’s a very different house,” Misra said. “It’s the only house on the block that’s not limestone or brick, and for the time it was built, it looks sort of plopped down.”
He said he’s hired Chicago architect Peter Nicholas to design something that keeps with the block’s pattern of limestone and brick, but is also modern.
“It’s going to be more of a modern house in the same way the Robie House fits into that part of the neighborhood,” Misra said.
Hyde Park was once a hotbed for experimentation in modernist architecture, particularly in the 1950s and ‘60s. Somehow the 5500 block of South Woodlawn Avenue had always escaped that trend, and most houses on the block date back to the 1890s to 1920s.
“You can’t build a 100-year-old house, but it will be in line with the other houses,” Misra said.
He said the final designs are still being prepared by Nicholas.
According to building permits, the home will be two stories with a roof-top deck trellis and penthouse.
The new home will be slightly lower in height but have a larger footprint on the lot, according to Misra.
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