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Hinsdale, Illinois |

Published Aug. 2, 2012                                         

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How is 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 Society.
    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 Schmid,
   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, Schmid said.
   “He gave impressive design to modest structures, to people who wouldn’t have otherwise invested in a designed home,” she said.
   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.

       by Selma Haveric

  Making a Difference is a yearlong partnership between
The Hinsdalean and the Hinsdale Historical Society, which works to collect, preserve and promote the village’s history and its architecture.



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