Seth Warner House, 1869, 631 N. Central Ave. Preliminary Chicago Landmark Designation Report. Image Credit: City of Chicago Department of Planning & Development/caption]
“The Austin neighborhood’s oldest house is up for Chicago landmark status. The Seth Warner House, built in 1869 at 631 N. Central Ave., has weathered a few transitions from its start as a gentleman’s farm on the prairie, to a hotel during the 1893 Columbian Exposition, to music school and back to single-family home in the midst of an urban city landscape.
“Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago, has been excited about the Seth Warner House for years. Noting that the house is one of 110 significant homes featured in John Drury’s 1940s guide ‘Old Chicago Houses,’ Miller says that when he met the current owner, James Bowers, he tried to convince him to pursue landmark status for his home.
“The house was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982, but lacks landmark status from the city of Chicago itself.
“‘I told [Bowers], you have to landmark it,’ said Miller. ‘Your home is contemporary to the much-revered Old Chicago Water Tower, downtown on Michigan Avenue. We’re possibly just one heartbeat away from losing this historic house forever if anything happens to you.’
“Miller makes the case that the Seth Warner House is more than just a historic building that’s worth saving. Yes, he says, the house has some striking original light fixtures, staircases, marble fireplaces and black walnut wood trim. The cupola and Italianate influences are amazing as well.
“Beyond the individual house, Miller says that city landmark status is galvanizing for the community in which it’s located.
“‘The building represents who we are as a city, at our strength and our core,’ Miller said.
“Designating the house a landmark would be a healing gesture that Miller says would give people pride in the city and pride in their neighborhood. He notes that as prairie gave way to city, the rest of the block built up and contains some significant painted lady Queen Anne-style homes. Eventually, he’d love to see the block win landmark designation.
“Making more houses landmarks could encourage pride and investment in the community, Miller said.
“‘Each of these landmark designations injects hope,’ he added. ‘It adds to the quality of life. These kinds of designations could help spark a lot and bring about a carefully crafted, planned renaissance that wouldn’t displace people but would make this a place people want to invest in, live in and visit.'” (Sikora, Wednesday Journal, 12/20/21)