Published Aug. 2, 2012
ASK AN EXPERT
HALBROOK SCHMID, PRESERVATIONIST
architect R. Harold Zook’s work significant?
When Ann Halbrook Schmid was
deciding on a topic for her thesis at the Art Institute
of Chicago, architect R. Harold Zook’s home in Hinsdale,
which had been threatened by demolition, was in the
process of being saved by the Hinsdale Historical
The complex, which Zook designed for his own use, includes a
cottage-style home, a studio and a garden wall. The
three were relocated to Katherine Legge Memorial Park,
where they stand today.
A resident of Hinsdale herself, Schmid had found the right topic
for her thesis.
“The timing was sort of what drove my research project,” said
She realized that, although many people in Hinsdale had knowledge
about Zook, there was no central catalogue of his work
that was widely accessible.
She started working on her thesis, “Roscoe Harold Zook: a Biography
and Catalogue,” in 2005. She graduated from the program
in 2006, and submitted her completed work in 2008.
Schmid used primary research to develop a list of 276 properties,
looking at Zook’s work from 1922, when he entered the
field of architecture, until his death in 1949.
The majority of Zook’s work can be found between Hinsdale, where he
lived, and Park Ridge, where he completed much of his
early work. However, he also designed projects outside
of the Chicago area, working on properties as far east
as Virginia, Schmid said.
Zook was best known for his cottage-like architecture, with
features such as thatched roofs and stucco.
“In reality, he had some very impressive designs that were very
progressive for his time,” Schmid said.
Among these designs are a few colonial revivals, art deco designs
and some Mediterranean and Spanish revivals.
Zook’s architectural style was unique because of its accessibility,
“He gave impressive design to modest structures, to people who
wouldn’t have otherwise invested in a designed home,”
She said people often associate architect-designed homes with the
very rich and very lavish, a concept Zook challenged.
Zook wrote that he liked the intimacy of smaller houses,
saying that designing a smaller space was more of a
challenge. Although he was known for his quaint, modest
cottage-like homes, Zook’s clients in Hinsdale sometimes
could afford larger homes.
By creating a written bibliography of Zook’s works, Schmid hoped to
give homeowners a tool to access certain designations,
such as the National Register of Historic Places, and
tax incentives that historic homes can qualify for.
“It allows homeowners to have a starting point,” she said.
Making a Difference is a yearlong partnership
The Hinsdalean and the Hinsdale Historical Society,
which works to collect, preserve and promote the
village’s history and its architecture.