Two starkly contrasting Wilmette properties may be designated as landmarks.
At the Wilmette Village Hall Thursday, the village’s Historic Preservation Commission nominated the Robert and Sue Drucker House and a building that once served as the Snow, Ice, and Permafrost Research Establishment for designation as local landmarks.
The structures couldn’t be more different. The SIPRE building at 1215 Washington Ave. is now an office building. Its nomination stems from what the commission recognized as its “social and political heritage.”
During the Cold War, the U.S. Army used the building to research cold-weather engineering, an important consideration in light of the frosty terrain separating America and the former U.S.S.R.
The building has undergone significant structural changes over the years, and its bid for landmark status hinges on its past importance.
“It would be architecturally significant, but for the severe losses and alterations,” said Robert Fitzgerald, member of the Historic Preservation Commission.
Fitzgerald observed that impressive designs molded in terracotta had disappeared from the building’s façade.
Landmark status comes with financial incentives, including federal tax breaks. As such, commission member Robert Lytle requested that the building’s owners recognize SIPRE’s significance on the premises with a sign or plaque.
Representatives from Chicago’s MacRostie Historic Advisors LLC, the firm representing the bid for landmark status, said that they would be willing to meet that request as soon as possible.
The Drucker House, on the other hand, remains faithful to its original form and its nomination stems from the importance of its architect, Harry Weese, and his unique style.
Located at 2801 Iriquois Road, the house was built in 1954. An addition came later, but Weese’s son Benjamin designed it with deference to his father’s style.
Susan Benjamin is representing the owner’s quest for local landmark status and she says that Weese’s work is exceptional.
“He developed his own brand of modernism,” she said. “He did miraculous things with screens.”
Weese designed the Time and Life Building and the striking River Cottages along Canal Street in Chicago. Patrons of Washington, D.C.’s Metro system may be unaware of the fact that their commute to and from work has Harry Weese’s fingerprints all over it, but his design speaks for itself.
Benjamin said that the owner of the Drucker House is seeking local landmark status not for financial incentives, but for personal reasons.
“She just doesn’t want to see the house torn down,” Benjamin said. “People who see it either love it, or don’t understand it. She loves it.”
The Historic Preservation Commission must meet again within 60 days for a formal hearing to decide on both properties’ landmark statuses.
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