Well-known West Side house staying, but distinctive pink trim is going

The 19th century Victorian house will lose its status as the ‘candy house’ but will remain a testament to another era of Chicago.

A widely-recognized pink and white house in Austin will be restored to its original Victorian design, though without its iconic pop.
A widely-recognized pink and white house in Austin will be restored to its original Victorian design, though without its iconic pop. Pat Nabong / Chicago Sun-Times
A widely-recognized pink and white house in Austin will be restored to its original Victorian design, though without its iconic pop.
A widely-recognized pink and white house in Austin will be restored to its original Victorian design, though without its iconic pop. Pat Nabong / Chicago Sun-Times

Well-known West Side house staying, but distinctive pink trim is going

The 19th century Victorian house will lose its status as the ‘candy house’ but will remain a testament to another era of Chicago.

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A West Side house that many feared would be lost is being restored — but it won’t retain the element that had made it so iconic, according to its new owners.

The white house, a 19th century Victorian, was known for its pink trim. But after it was sold in early 2021 by the family that had owned it for decades, many on social media have speculated about its fate.

Interest increased after workers removed the roof earlier this month.

But the new owners have confirmed they are not razing the house at 556 N. Central Ave. in the Austin neighborhood. They plan to restore it.

“The outside will look the same, only a whole lot newer,” said Debra Kelch, noting that it was the turret and two stories of wrap-around porches that they fell in love with about the house.

However, she said, the trim will be painted sage green.

The Michigan family bought the house for their daughter, who lived in Chicago at the time.

They never intended to keep the pink, but “we decided to let it go in case she ever left and we had to sell it,” Kelch said.

Construction on the exterior of the house began in mid-September and is expected to take about six weeks, Kelch said.

Then, they will modernize the interior. The house still had lines in place for gas lighting and was insulated with century-old newspapers, according to its previous owners, the Anderson family.

It wasn’t always pink, though. That came when the Andersons bought it in 1986.

At the time, Yolanda Anderson was a teenager enamored with Jane Austen novels. She took responsibility for the color. “I loved pink and they just went for it,” she said.

Her father did the work. Anderson remembers mixing paints with him to create that shade of pink, and how he inlaid small letter A’s in the house, for their last name. “I see my father written all over the house,” she said.

After her father died in 2017, they fell behind on repairs. By 2021, they were looking at an estimated $80,000 just to fix the leaky roof and sagging porches.

The house had become a neighborhood landmark. Anderson said sometimes the family would awaken to see someone on the porch, snapping photos of the ‘Candy House.’

“They felt it was part of their heritage,” she said.

The Andersons tried to restore it, creating a GoFundMe to raise money and a Facebook page to share updates.

West Side natives Felix and Patty Velazquez initially donated around $50.

“It’s iconic,” Patty said. “Everyone knows the pink-and-white house, you can’t miss it when you drive down Central.”

Owners of a plumbing business, they volunteered to help once they learned how much had to be done. Felix estimated they put $8,000 into the house, including labor and materials.

“At one time that house had been a beautiful house,” Felix said. “Because I’m in the trades, I admire how houses look.”

Still, it wasn’t enough. The Andersons sold the house for $120,000 in February 2021.

Now residing in Oak Park, taking care of her mother, Yolanda Anderson admits she grieves over the house. But she’s happy it’s still standing.

“We were happy they were willing to come along and put into it so that it didn’t have the same fate that befell so many of the other homes around us,” Anderson said.

Once work is complete, Kelch said, they plan to put the house on the market, as their daughter has since moved from Chicago.

Michael Loria is a staff reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times via Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster the paper’s coverage of communities on the South and West sides.