Schindler cottage in Wilmette heading north
Architectural historians say plans for this studio guest house at 1320 Isabella St. in Wilmette bear the signatures of Prairie School pioneer Frank Lloyd Wright and his one-time assistant, the modernist architect Rudolph Schindler. | Rob Dicker~Sun-Times
Do you agree with the owner's decision to move the cottage?
On the move
WHAT: 1920 cottage designed by Rudolph Schindler, while he worked for Frank Lloyd Wright.
WHERE: To Wauconda.
IMPORTANT: Because cottage may be last Schindler-designed building in Chicago area.
Updated: June 11, 2012 8:23AM
An Oak Brook contractor with a passion for Prairie School architecture has come to the rescue of the tiny Schindler-Wright cottage once targeted for demolition on Wilmette’s Isabella Avenue.
Joe Catrambone said Friday he plans to dismantle the building, now at 1320 Isabella St., and take all of its original components to his Wauconda lakefront property. He hopes it will serve not only as a family cottage, but also as a destination for other architecture enthusiasts who want to spend time there.
Preliminary staging for the operation should go up next week, Catrambone said; work will include turning off utilities and removing non-original building sections. He hopes to have the cottage moved and reconstructed in time for it to be used in 2013.
Catrambone said he intends to raise the $80,000 he estimates is needed to complete the project by selling shares in a company formed for that purpose.
Meanwhile, developer George Hausen, who owns both the 1320 and neighboring 1318 Isabella lots, has put the larger John Van Bergen-designed two-story home at 1318 Isabella St. up for sale. The house is now on the market for $599,000, he said Friday, at least for the next few months.
Lisa DiChiera, advocacy director for Landmarks Illinois, said Friday that her group will work with Hausen to try to find a buyer for the main house.
“It’s really a Prairie-style masterpiece, but it does need the right buyer, who appreciates that style and who really understands that this house is unique. It’s livable right now, so changes would just have to be cosmetic,” she said, adding that a buyer could win a property tax assessment freeze benefit if he or she allowed the building to gain municipal landmark status.
Catrambone praised Hausen, and officials of the Frank Lloyd Wright Conservancy, for making the cottage relocation possible.
“I want to commend him. George is a developer. His business is building new houses. For him to do this is a big deal,” he said.
Catrambone also suggested that his gain was Wilmette’s loss.
Last month, commissioners on the Wilmette Park District’s recreation committee decided not to move the cottage to district property. Commissioners weren’t happy with projected moving and repositioning costs of up to $66,000, nor the short time they would have had to check out the building.
“I do not understand why the Wilmette Park District didn’t get it, and buy (the building), and make the numbers work,” he said. “From my point of view it was a complete mistake.
“But it was to my benefit, to be honest.”
Both the cottage -- a single-story construct with ties to architectural giant Frank Lloyd Wright and fellow Prairie School pioneer Rudolph Schindler -- and the Van Bergen house had been scheduled for demolition until protests from the preservation community convinced Hausen to hold off on the wrecking ball.
The cottage was originally built in 1920, and blueprints include not only Wright’s signature but also that of Schindler, a one-time Wright assistant and famous architect in his own right. According to officials from the conservancy, architectural historians believe it could be the last remaining Schindler-designed building in the Chicago area.
John Adler, Wilmette’s community development director, said Catrambone’s project was “sad, in the sense that it would have been nice if (the cottage) could have been kept in Wilmette, but the huge positive is that it has been saved.”