A historic Winnetka home that was once likely headed for demolition is now on the road to preservation.
The owners of 1180 Oakley Ave. — a property with “architectural and historical significance” according to Winnetka’s Landmark Preservation Commission — submitted a demolition permit for the home in mid-2020.
But after input from the commission and neighbors, the buyers reversed course and decided to build a plan that will retain a significant portion of the home.
“We went down the process of demolition and got a lot of feedback from neighbors and the historical committee and we were given an opportunity to take a second look at it and maintain the important elements of the home, which is really the front of the house,” said Krzysztof Marzec, who owns the home along with his wife Magda.
The homeowners decision to preserve the Oakley Avenue property comes as a request to demolish another historic property in Winnetka is facing contention from neighbors and even village officials.
After the owners of 740 Ardsley Road submitted a demolition permit, dozens of residents submitted comments to the village opposing the destruction of the home.
With the hope that more properties have an outcome like 1180 Oakley Ave., Winnetka trustees are scheduled to have a study session on the preservation of historic homes in the village at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 12.
In order to preserve the home on Oakley, the Marzecs requested the Winnetka Village Council approve several zoning variations. Trustees unanimously approved the variations during their Tuesday, Jan. 5 meeting, and thanked the family for working to preserve the home rather than opting for demolition.
“We really appreciate you taking the time and consideration to think through the options available to you on this particular piece of property,” Village President Chris Rintz said.
Trustee Penny Lanphier shared similar thoughts.
“I can’t thank you enough for being responsive to the concerns and taking a look at saving the house,” she said. “This is part of what lends the character to Winnetka. It’s historically important and architecturally important to keep the nature of the street.
“Your open mindedness is really terrific and we can’t wait to keep you in the village.”
According to village documents, the home was deemed architecturally and historically significant because of “its association with architects Jacques Kocher and Benjamin Larson, who were prominent architects who designed several Chicago-area historic buildings and … the residence having been home for several prominent Winnetka residents.”
Researchers also call the home “an excellent and unaltered example of Mediterranean Revival architecture.”
“Because the significance of the house is reflected in its front facade and its relationship to the street, removing the house would have an irreversible impact on the cohesiveness of the neighborhood,” the Historical and Architectural Impact study reads.
The home, which was built in 1925, sits on roughly one-third of an acre and is approximately 3,900 square feet, officials said.
The homeowners’ plans to renovate the property will keep the front facade intact while adding an addition on the west side and rear of the home, documents show.
On the property’s first floor, that addition will include alterations to the garage, an expanded kitchen and family room, a mudroom and storage space at the rear of the house.
Alterations on the second floor will focus on increasing the size of the main bedroom.
In total, the plan adds 2,300 square feet to the property, which resulted in the need for zoning variations.
“We got quite lucky, because the home is structurally sound,” Krzysztof told the Council. “The layout, because it’s essentially a rectangle, we were able to add another rectangle on the back of it.
“A lot of logistical challenges were overcome with designing what we wanted, as well as keeping the important elements of the home, and thus saving the house.”
Officials are pleased with the fate of this home, saying this is the ideal outcome for properties of this nature.
“This doesn’t happen too much for (the Landmark Preservation Commission), but this one is a feel-good situation and I can’t thank the buyer enough for this and I hope that others will consider this kind of path.
“The community stepped us, the neighborhood stepped up and it’s working out just as it should.”
Martin Carlino is a co-founder and the senior editor who assigns and edits The Record stories, while also bylining articles every week. Martin is an experienced and award-winning education reporter who was the editor of The Northbrook Tower.