• Kim Piekos

New Guidebook Details Architectural Treasures Around Town

By Kim Piekos

Ever notice one of Lake Forest’s landmark homes and wonder how it came to be? The Lake Forest Preservation Foundation just made getting answers to some of your architectural questions easy with a new160-page guidebook, Architectural Lake Forest: A Guide to National Register Historic Districts and Properties in Lake Forest, Illinois, that is being released on Nov. 6.

“This book serves as a history lesson, an elegant reference manual, a testament to the value of preservation and a guide for touring the city by foot, bicycle or car,” says author Art Miller, a well-known Lake Forest historian who has served as a two-term president of the Preservation Foundation.

“This book is a gift to the residents of Lake Forest," says Lake Forest Preservation Executive Director Marcy Kerr.

The book features 261 landmarked structures and landscapes that are visible from the street, including homes, businesses, churches, institutional buildings, gardens and public parks.

“It was important to us that we provide a representation of styles and eras of architecture and that people are able to see the structure or at least an important aspect of it from the street,” says Miller. “We have made information about these iconic properties easily accessible for those interested in learning more.”

A guidebook published by the Foundation 30 years ago profiled significant buildings in two historic districts, including downtown Lake Forest east to Lake Michigan and the Vine/Oakwood district just south of Deerpath Road. These appear in the new book, and three since-recognized historic districts are added: West Park and its surrounding neighborhood, the Green Bay Road District and Deerpath Hill Estates, located just to the east of Waukegan and Deerpath roads.

“All but one of the 80 properties highlighted in the previous book are still standing,” reports Preservation Foundation Executive Director Marcy Kerr. “This is a remarkable feat, one very few communities can attest to.”

Miller finds it remarkable how well owners have cared for their historic homes. “People have done a fantastic job of preserving and upgrading their homes, keeping these houses vibrant and alive,” he says. “This speaks to how valued preservation of the community’s historic character is to residents.”

Miller notes that it was the influence of the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago that inspired the building of many estates in Lake Forest. He says that a wave of Italian villas popularized by Edith Wharton prompted structures such as Villa Turicum and Mellody Farm in Lake Forest. French Country Manor homes came on the scene after World War 1, as well as Tudors. “There is always a rhythm to the development of architectural styles, with shifts coming every 20-30 years,” Miller reports.

Yet Miller claims few original owners of these estates were satisfied with staying within the boundaries of the traditional designs associated with these styles of homes. “Architects would riff on these styles and creatively modify these houses to make them bespoke, one-offs,” he says.

Though the book profiles many Estate Era properties, it also focuses on middle-class residences, including the importance of the West Park neighborhood. “These homes were originally owned by people who worked at shops and businesses in town or for families who owned the estates,” explains Kerr. “This well-preserved neighborhood is important to the history and development of Lake Forest.”

With each chapter focusing on a specific historic district neighborhood in the city, readers are given a map that shows the boundaries of each district and where each structure is located, a photo of each property and details of each including original owner, the architect or landscape architect, the year it was built and the style of structure. An essay about a significant property that represents the style of homes in the district is also included.

Local photographer Marcus Norman rode his bike around town taking photos of each property, and local artist and past president of the Foundation Alice Moulton-Ely provided line drawings of each chapter’s featured home that she has done over the past 40 years. “There’s a lot of local talent here, hidden treasures in themselves,” Miller points out.

Research enthusiasts will enjoy indexes of addresses of architects and landscape architects and other references. A list of books that publish additional information about most properties gives abbreviations listed under the addresses. A glossary of architectural and landscape styles and rationales for each is also provided.

The Foundation is launching the new book on Sunday, November 6 from 3 p.m.–5 p.m. at a reception at an architecturally significant home designed by David Adler with interior design by his sister, Frances Elkins. Limited tickets are still available at www.lfpf.org and copies of the book can also be purchased on this website.

Says Kerr, “This book is a gift to the residents of Lake Forest. It underscores the significance of the planning this community has undergone from the beginning and the strong preservation ordinances that have protected it from overdevelopment. One hundred years later, we are still following the plan that defined the development of the community and enables Lake Forest to maintain its unique character.”