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posted: 12/1/2013 12:01 AM

Prospect Park homes, history featured in holiday housewalk

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  • Larry Moats, left, consults with Paul Seils of Busse's Flowers, who will help decorate the Moats' family home for Mount Prospect's holiday housewalk.

       Larry Moats, left, consults with Paul Seils of Busse's Flowers, who will help decorate the Moats' family home for Mount Prospect's holiday housewalk.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • The Moats home, a 1928 Cotswold cottage, that will be featured on this year's Mount Prospect Holiday Housewalk.

       The Moats home, a 1928 Cotswold cottage, that will be featured on this year's Mount Prospect Holiday Housewalk.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • A fireplace serves as the focal point in the living room of the Moats home, built in 1928.

       A fireplace serves as the focal point in the living room of the Moats home, built in 1928.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • The Moats home, a 1928 Cotswold cottage, that will be featured on this year's Mount Prospect Holiday Housewalk. Dining room.

       The Moats home, a 1928 Cotswold cottage, that will be featured on this year's Mount Prospect Holiday Housewalk. Dining room.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Stairway going upstairs The Moats home, a 1928 Cotswold cottage, that will be featured on this year's Mount Prospect Holiday Housewalk..

       Stairway going upstairs The Moats home, a 1928 Cotswold cottage, that will be featured on this year's Mount Prospect Holiday Housewalk..
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • A wooden, vaulted ceiling soars over the living room of the Moats home.

       A wooden, vaulted ceiling soars over the living room of the Moats home.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • The Moats' backyard and gazebo, where Kay Moats, an award-winning gardener and floral artist, spent much time.

       The Moats' backyard and gazebo, where Kay Moats, an award-winning gardener and floral artist, spent much time.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • The Moats home, a 1928 Cotswold cottage, that will be featured on this year's housewalk.

       The Moats home, a 1928 Cotswold cottage, that will be featured on this year's housewalk.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

 
By Jean Murphy
Daily Herald Correspondent

One of Mount Prospect's "toniest" neighborhoods will be on display Dec. 6 when the Mount Prospect Historical Society holds its 26th annual Holiday Housewalk from 3:30 to 9 p.m.

"We chose to highlight the Prospect Park Country Club neighborhood, just east of the Mount Prospect Golf Course, because it is such a lovely area and people long to see the insides of the houses," said Jill Tumberger, co-chairman of the event and a member of the historical society's board of directors.

Five homeowners will open their houses for interior tours while two others will have their homes' exteriors highlighted with their histories posted outside on lit podiums for the evening.

As it turns out, the neighborhood is a treasure trove of history, Tumberger said.

When Axel Lonnquist planned his Prospect Park Country Club subdivision for Mount Prospect, he envisioned it as "a model garden suburb." Together with his Northwest Hills Country Club, he promised in his announcement in the Cook County Herald in May, 1925, that the new subdivision would feature large, improved lots, a community center, golf course, tennis courts, bowling greens and a bridge path.

Such grand plans attracted the notice, of course, of prominent citizens in Chicago and elsewhere, so the wealthy and the up-and-coming flocked to Mount Prospect to buy homes and be a part of the glitzy new venture.

So it is not surprising that many of the original owners of this year's housewalk homes along Hi-Lusi, Wa-Pella and Lincoln avenues and Sha-Bonee Trail are highly interesting and notable for one reason or another. Those who purchased in Prospect Park in the 1920s and 30s were the movers and shakers of their generation, and that trend continued after World War II when building in the area resumed.

One of the more interesting homeowners -- Judson F. Lee, a professor of business and economics at the Illinois Institute of Technology from 1910 to 1945 -- lived with his family in a stately Cotswold Cottage-style home at 406 S. Wa-Pella Ave.

Lee, a native of Iowa, earned his doctorate from the University of Chicago in 1913. He had begun at IIT as an instructor in 1910 while he was earning his doctorate and later became head of the economics department and eventually, head of the administration department. He built the Mount Prospect home, which was quite a commute from IIT on Chicago's south side, in 1928.

Lee was a historian, economist and author of a book on the role transportation played in the development of Illinois. After retirement from IIT in 1945, he spent a summer traveling through war-torn Europe to gather information on postwar economic problems for a second book, although it appears he never wrote one.

Instead, he taught business and economics at Ottawa University in Kansas until 1951 when his wife, Jessie, died. Several years later he remarried but died shortly thereafter, in early 1957, following a broken hip.

The Lee home has been owned by the family of Robert and Kay Moats since 1964. Interestingly, Robert Moats had something in common with Lee. He, too, held a doctorate. His was in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and he worked for the Northrop Corp.

Kay Moats lived in the home until she passed away last summer. She was an award-winning gardener and floral artist.

"Our mother was passionate about this property," said Betsy Moats Rose. "She devoted the last 48 years of her life to the care of the house and what seems like several lifetimes to hard work and creativity in the garden."

The Moats children plan to sell the house next year.

Judge Ralph E. Gould, who served as a Mount Prospect municipal judge from 1940 to 1963, was the original owner of the yellow brick colonial home at 501 W. Lincoln Ave., which also is featured on this year's walk. He and his wife, Frances, purchased it in 1932.

Judge Gould lived there until 1972, but Frances died in 1963. Around the time he purchased the home, Gould ran for a two-year term as a Mount Prospect village trustee and won with 420 votes. Eight years later he became the part-time Mount Prospect police magistrate (or municipal judge) and served until the position of municipal judge was done away with by state law in late 1963.

The Cook County circuit court took over at that time and Judge Gould retired. He was one of 27 North suburban judges who all left at this time. Gould died in 1978 at the age of 91.

This home is now owned by George and Nancy Vincent.

The most fascinating original resident of this year's featured homes was Harold Ragland, who built the gray Cape Cod home at 417 S. Hi-Lusi Ave. in 1935. The house will be highlighted on the outside only during the Dec. 6 housewalk.

Ragland was an executive with cosmetics company Maybelline. He was its marketing genius from 1933 to 1968, according to "The Maybelline Story: And the Spirited Family Dynasty Behind It" by Sharrie Williams and Bettie Youngs (Bettie Youngs Books Publishing Co.; 2011).

Known as "Rags," Ragland had been sales manager for a women's magazine before approaching Maybelline's owners and offering to double their sales in six months if they hired him at a rate of $75 per week. He was the first nonfamily member who Tom Lyle Williams, the firm's founder, brought into the executive suite, Williams and Youngs wrote.

Ragland did away with mail order and marketed Maybelline products nationally for the first time. He also designed eye-catching point-of-purchase displays for stores and, instead of traveling to individual stores and talking to managers, he went to the headquarters of retail chains and talked to their owners -- an audacious move at the time, according to the authors. In less than six months, Maybelline's sales doubled and his place in the company was secured.

Two years after he was hired, Ragland built a lovely Cape Cod home in Mount Prospect's prestigious Prospect Park for his young family and lived there for more than 20 years.

The current owners of the home are Michael and Sue Campbell.

Other original homeowners of the housewalk homes were attorneys, politicians, professors and leaders in charitable endeavors like the Christmas Seals campaign against tuberculosis and the Northwest Suburban Council of the Boy Scouts.

Over the years since it was begun in 1988, the Mount Prospect Holiday Housewalk has opened 129 different homes to the public for interior tours. Gathering annually in various churches, the local historic train station, the Mount Prospect Golf Course, a bank and heated tents when no public structure was close by, the holiday housewalk has evolved from a Sunday afternoon driving tour highlighting homes all over the village, to a Friday night neighborhood-specific walking tour.

"We have endured the full range of weather, too," laughed Tumberger. "One year it was in the 70s and the homeowners had to turn on their air conditioning because of all the people walking through. Another year we had a huge snowfall the night before but the Public Works Department worked with us and managed to get the street where the housewalk was being held cleared. Luckily, the walk was all contained on one block that particular year."

The annual event has raised well over $200,000 for the society's operating fund over its venerable history.

The housewalk's marketing has also evolved. Patrons can now purchase housewalk tickets from the comfort of their own homes via PayPal through the society's website, www.mtphist.org.

Tickets can also be purchased using a smartphone equipped with a QR (quick response) code reader anywhere you see a housewalk event poster. Using a QR code reader to scan this code, you will be taken directly to the housewalk event/ticket purchase webpage.

Finally, the MPHS Holiday Housewalk has its own Facebook event page full of up-to-the-minute information, news and tidbits about the event.

The homes featured this year, both inside and outside, are: 502 S. Wa-Pella Ave., owned by Jeff and Julie LaCamera; 406 S. Wa-Pella Ave., owned by the Robert Moats family; 501 W. Lincoln Ave., owned by George and Nancy Vincent; 407 S. Hi-Lusi Ave., owned by Edward and Laura Wiertel; and 405 W. Sha-Bonee Trail, owned by Rick and Hanna Steinkuehler.

The exteriors of 415 S. Wa-Pella Ave. and 417 S. Hi-Lusi Ave. will also be highlighted with historical notes featured on a lighted podium.

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