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Hinsdale, Illinois |

Published Nov. 17, 2011                                               

Zook home and studio a Hinsdale treasure

Historical society excited about efforts to open buildings to public, but funds are still needed

By Pamela Lannom 

   Working to restore the Zook home and studio is a bit like piecing together a puzzle and a bit like going on a treasure hunt.
   The two buildings, which architect R. Harold Zook built for his family in 1924 at 327 S. Oak St., were saved from demolition six years ago by the Hinsdale Historical Society. Now the group’s project is to raise about $1 million to restore both buildings, which were moved to Katherine Legge Memorial Park.
   “The intent for the home is to have it be available for community use,” said Shannon Weinberger, president of the historical society. “The studio will house our Zook collection and resources and provide and opportunity for Zook homeowners to come in and blog and talk.”
   Some $800,000 already has been raised. About a third of that amount went toward moving the house, which had to be cut into three pieces.
   “They put it back within an eighth of an inch,” Weinberger said.
   Since then, work has been done a bit at a time.
   “We’re doing it as funds come in,” Weinberger said. “When we have funds for a specific project, then we start to work on that project. Paul (Primeau, project manager/contractor) has done a phenomenal job of breaking the project up in parts.”
   So far the home has been stabilized structurally, additions have been removed, modern utilities have been installed, the exterior masonry has been repaired, the fireplace has been stripped, the windows have been removed and cleaned and a new roof has been installed.
   “There’s so much that goes into everything we do over there. Nothing is ‘order it from a catalog and put it in.’ It’s all custom and sometimes it takes finding the right people to do the right job,” she said.
   The undulating cedar shingle roof is an excellent example. The society hired a Florida company to install the roof with rolled eaves, which resembles a thatched roof.
   “It truly takes having an artistic eye to do it,” Primeau said. “You’re into having a craftsman as opposed to a tradesman putting your roof on.”
   Much of the work inside the home has involved removing things like closets that were not original or kitchen cabinets that had been moved.
   Primeau discovered plans for the home on microfiche at village hall, which have been very helpful. And there is some learning as you go.
   “Just taking apart different parts of the house and looking at it, you can tell the history,” he said.
   For those who appreciate older homes, the discoveries that come during disassembly are exciting. Among the most interesting finds in the home was gold leaf on the walls in a second floor bedroom.
   “When we found that gold leaf, we were all emailing back and forth,” Weinberger said.
   Zook built very unique homes. This one has 14 different levels — four or five just on the group floor. There also was a ladder that went from the entryway closet up to the third floor.
   “There is quite a bit of unexpected in the house,” Primeau said. “There is not the predictability you see in modern buildings.”
   Work on the studio is further along. With the society’s Zook materials to eventually be housed on the second floor, the first floor will be used for programs or special events.
   “We’re very close to having all the funds to finish this,” Weinberger said.
   The chance to move the home and studio next door to another Zook structure, the KLM Lodge, was irresistible, historical society board member Bob Saigh said. Adding the buildings to the inventory of wonderful space available for use in the community — from Immanuel Hall to private homes to churches to public buildings — will add to the village as a whole, he said.
   “It’s really a treat for individuals and organizations, when you think of it that way,” Saigh said. “Those kinds of things do add to the richness of community endeavors.”

Zook homes in Hinsdale

   How many houses R. Harold Zook built in Hinsdale is a difficult question to answer.
   “At one point somebody guessed that maybe there were 30 plus in town,” Hinsdale Historical Society Board President Shannon Weinberger said. “The tricky thing about a Zook is nobody really knows if they are Zooks. He didn’t really keep records. The way we know a Zook is a Zook is people have the original blueprints. Lila (Self, Zook homeowner and expert) spent a lot of time recognizing Zooks in town.”
   Most homes, even if they don’t resemble a Zook on the outside, contain some of his characteristic features: multiple levels, a spiderweb pattern, exposed beams, chevron patterns, beamed cathedral ceilings and small, irregularly shaped rooms.
   He is most famous for English Cotswold-style houses, but he also designed buildings in the Tudor and Georgian styles.
   “They are very charming houses and they are really fun,” Weinberger said. “It would be really interesting to live in one. I imagine kids would love them, too.”



  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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