Possible reprieve on Isabella Street: Builder no longer wants to demolish historic Wilmette residence

February 23, 2012

A threatened Wilmette residence and cottage linked to three important 20th century architects could be spared the wrecking ball under a plan devised by the home builder who originally sought to demolish the structures.

George Hausen, owner of Schaumburg-based Housing Contractors Inc., said he would be willing to sell the main home at 1318 Isabella, designed by architect John Van Bergen, to a new buyer. A neighboring cottage, 1320 Isabella, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright's studio--its original drawings bear the name of Wright's draftsman Rudolph Schindler who later became a preeminent architect himself--would be donated to a preservation group or individual who'd be willing to move the home off the property. 

"My intentions are now, after having some dialog, is that I'm more than willing to market the house at 1318 and sell it as is," Hausen said. "If nobody wants the cottage, it will be demo'd. [But] I'd give someone the time to have it. I don't even close on the property until mid-to-late April."

With the cottage removed, a new home of a size and scale compatible to the neighborhood would be built at 1320, Hausen said. The home would not be a "McMansion," he said, adding "that's not the type of house" his company builds.

Hausen set off alarms in preservation circles when it was learned he asked Wilmette village officials last week about razing the site for two new homes--an act first reported by this blog and on the website PrairieMod.com. Hausen said he did not know the homes were historic at the time he signed the purchase contract. 

The photo below shows the Van Bergen-designed home with the cottage on the far left at the rear of the lot. The new home would be built on that lot under Hausen's plan:

Lisa DiChiera, advocacy director for the preservation group Landmarks Illinois, was among the preservationists with whom Hausen had been speaking this week. DiChiera called Hausen's decision "a very fair compromise."

"He heard the outcry and he responded," she said. "Many developers would have said, 'Too bad. It's in my right to proceed with my original plans.' I respect him for helping to find a solution that meets his interests and those of preservationists."