Heritage, homes on display during Mount Prospect Holiday Housewalk Friday
A Mount Prospect neighborhood with American Indian-inspired street names and roots that date back into the 1920s will become part of a holiday tradition this year.
The Mount Prospect Historical Society will hold its 32nd annual Holiday Housewalk from 3 to 9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 6. The walk will feature a portion of the Prospect Park neighborhood and the interiors of four private homes built in the 1950s or very early 1960s, and two that were recently re-constructed and enlarged.
"We chose to highlight a portion of what everyone now calls the Country Club Neighborhood. This specific area of that neighborhood has never been highlighted in the long history of the walk and it has so many lovely post-World War II homes," said Jill Tumberger, co-chairman of the event.
Homes to be featured are on streets with unusual American Indian names such as Shabonee Trail and Can-Dota, Na Wa Ta and Wa Pella avenues.
Legend says the area's original developer, Axel Lonnquist, allowed local Camp Fire Girls (who were very active in Mount Prospect in those days) to name the streets and they came up with the unusual names. Wa Pella and Shabonee came from the names of Indian chiefs and Can-Dota was the name of a tribe. Na Wa Ta still presents a puzzle. It could either be from an Algonquin word meaning "slope" or it could come from "A-Wa-Ta," the name of one of the Camp Fire groups.
The homes that will have their interiors featured this year are: 514 S. Wa Pella Ave., owned by John and Jill Maher; 609 S. Can-Dota Ave., owned by Damien and Sheila Kalck; 606 S. Can-Dota Ave., owned by Eric and Pat Heimdahl; 803 W. Shabonee Trail, owned by Tony and Karisa Disano; 500 S. Can-Dota, owned by Trent and Kara Coleman; and 415 S. Can-Dota, owned by Martin and Sara McDonagh. In addition, the exterior of 506 S. Na Wa Ta Ave., owned by John and Maura Reschke, will be featured on the outside only.
By the time these homes were built, Lonnquist was long out of the picture. He had purchased the old Fred Schaefer and Henry Mensching farms during the 1920s in order to create "a model garden suburb." He promised large, fully improved lots, a community center, golf course, tennis courts, bowling greens and a bridge path.
But he lost his dream shortly after the stock market crash of October 1929. Harold Willson bought the golf course (now the park district's Mount Prospect Golf Club) and remaining lots in 1931 but development in the area was effectively halted until well after Germany and Japan were defeated at the end of World War II in 1945.
The stories handed down about this year's homes are fascinating.
One of the homes was built by George Stephens, inventor of the Weber Grill. George, who developed a love for outdoor cooking while in the Army, worked for Weber Brothers Metal Works in Arlington Heights. In the early 1950s, Weber Brothers was manufacturing metal buoys for the Chicago Yacht Club. George crafted his first grill by cutting one of the buoys in half, drilling some holes in the bottom and lid, and adding three legs and a handle to the top. Based on the popularity of the grill in his neighborhood, George hit the street with his invention, targeting his marketing directly to the public with cooking demonstrations outside businesses and eventually on local Chicago television stations.
Another featured house was built in 1957, based on the Prairie-style architecture developed by Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis H. Sullivan and others. This home, with its horizontal lines, low pitched roof, broad eaves and wide open floor plan, is a perfect example of Frank Lloyd Wright's vision where the building is "married to the ground."
The three relief sculptures on the front of the home represent three Roman gods: Tiberinus, Mercury and Hippona.
Then there is the massive brick and crabapple stone ranch home built by Dan and Winifred Serafini. It was cutting edge at the time it was built, even including an underground fall-out shelter because the Cold War was at its height then. The concrete shelter is located directly beneath the home's family room.
But the most fascinating thing about this house is that for 25 years -- from 1966 to 1991 -- it served as the Northern District Mission House for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, commonly known as the Mormons. Young Mormons doing their 18 months to two years of required missionary work would live here.
Diagonally across the street is another lovely home with an interesting story. The Ray and Marion Stolzman ranch home was built in 1951 and lived in by the Stolzmans for two years. He owned a local construction company.
The most famous resident, however, was Brad Palmer, the longtime sportscaster from ABC-TV Channel 7 news who was known as "The Professor." His parents lived here from 1966 to 2003 and he moved in with them when they bought the house. However, since the nine-time Illinois Sportscaster of the Year began his professional life soon thereafter, he probably moved on to his own place rather quickly.
During the early 2000s many additions, including a master bedroom suite, a large family room with a fireplace and a lovely kitchen, were made to the home. Today this house is owned by Sara and Marty McDonagh, who have updated the home throughout, making it very interesting. For instance, a distinctive pergola around the front door draws the eyes of passersby on a regular basis, coupled with its beautiful and extensive landscaping. The McDonaghs' pergola forms a shaded entryway to their home using pillars supporting cross-beams and an open lattice.
"We are very pleased to be involved in this year's housewalk," said Sara. "It is nice to be a part of something like the housewalk that people really enjoy and look forward to each year."
Marty agreed. "It is very flattering to be asked."
Over the years since it was begun in 1988, the Mount Prospect Holiday Housewalk has opened approximately 160 homes to the public for interior tours, headquartering the walk 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 also 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 more than $260,000 for the historical society's operating fund over its venerable history.
Non-refundable tickets can be purchased for $28 through Dec. 5 at Mount Prospect State Bank, 299 W. Central Road; Busse Flowers and Gifts, 100 E. Northwest Hwy.; River Trails' Weiss Center, 1500 E. Euclid Ave.; Lions Park Recreation Center, 411 S. Maple St.; Millie's Hallmark, 1024 S. Elmhurst Rd.; and the Dietrich Friedrichs House museum, 101 S. Maple St.
Tickets are also available through PayPal at www.mtphist.org. Those tickets can be picked up at a "will call" desk located at the heated headquarters tent situated at the intersection of Council Trail and Wa Pella Avenue where refreshments will be offered and watercolors of the featured houses displayed. Museum store items will also be sold there.
Last-minute decision-makers may also purchase tickets on the day of the walk, beginning at 3 p.m. at the tent, but the cost will be $30 at that time.
"The Housewalk is the society's largest fundraiser of the year," Tumberger said. "Its proceeds support the many educational endeavors of the society and help to pay for upkeep on our museum. We urge the public to support our effort to preserve local history through enjoying the housewalk and our other activities throughout the year."
Call the society at (847) 392-9006 for more information or visit www.mtphist.org.