Edgeville Buzz

After Two High Profile Losses, Edgewater Preservationists Save Historic Mansion

Nordine House

With the popularity of Edgewater on the rise, longtime residents have ramped up their attempts to save many historic buildings from developers who see opportunities. After two recent high profile demolitions, area preservationists got good news last week as one of the last remaining historic mansions in Edgewater was cleared for preliminary landmark status.

It is not an easy process to save an area building from the wrecking ball because it will have to first meet specific criteria set forth by the Landmarks Division of the Chicago Department of Planning and Development (DPD). In a meeting held last Thursday at City Hall however, it was announced that the the Ken Nordine mansion at 6106 N. Kenmore had met four of the seven criteria necessary for preliminary landmark status. They determined that not only was the property designed by nationally recognized Chicago architects Pond and Pond and owned by a significant person (Ken Nordine), they also decided that the home has importance to Chicago heritage and exemplary architecture.

Nordine House – Early 1900s

“We are very pleased because there was some doubts earlier whether the Landmark staff would be allowed to proceed and make the recommendations before the committee,” said Leroy Blommaert, Co-Chair of the Historic Sites Committee of the Edgewater Historical Society. “However, once I heard they were preparing their report, I knew it would happen. The commissions voted in favor of landmarking and it will ultimately be decided upon at a public hearing.”

Built in 1902, the house was purchased almost 60 years ago by one of the most celebrated voices in both radio and television, Grammy Award nominated Ken Nordine. Operating his legendary creative space Snail Studios inside, a wide range of celebrities secretly recorded at the home including the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia and the masterful Tom Waits. Sadly, Nordine passed away in February of 2019 and the estate was left to his sons who quickly started to look for a buyer.

It was learned soon after that a contract was signed by a developer who subsequently applied for a demolition permit even though another offer was made by company who wished to preserve the existing home. However, because the property is “Orange Rated” by the city, an automatic 90-day hold delayed the permit approval pending a review by DPD Landmarks Division.

The Edgewater Historical Society (EHS) alongside Landmarks Illinois have been instrumental in drumming up support for the home’s survival. After two very public attempts to save both the architecturally significant Woodruff Arcade at Devon and Broadway and the historic seven-story apartment complex at 6330 N. Winthrop, EHS felt confident about saving the Nordine House.

Both Alderman Harry Osterman and the Chicago Department of Planning and Development Commissioner Maurice Cox spoke out about the importance of the home at Thursday’s meeting. The Nordine family and their lawyer who are hoping to proceed with the sale and subsequent demolition were also present. They argued that the home had been unmaintained for years and now requires a huge amount of repair.

Though Landmark status is expected to be approved by the Landmarks Commission, it will be ultimately decided upon after a final public hearing to be scheduled within 90 days. At the hearing, both sides will be able to present their case and any necessary evidence.

“To me this was a slam dunk,” Blommaert added. “It was clear that the home met at least two of the seven criteria. It was a long struggle and it should not have been in my view. Unfortunately very few buildings that are deserving of preservation meet the criteria for landmark preservation. So we should not get our hopes up too much for buildings that could fall to the wrecking ball.”



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