Historic housewalk: Mount Prospect residents open their homes for the holidays

 
By Jean Murphy
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 11/26/2018 7:01 AM
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  • Tom and Barb Meier will open their home as part of the 31st annual Mount Prospect Holiday Housewalk. This former ranch home was enlarged with a second-story addition in 2006.

      Tom and Barb Meier will open their home as part of the 31st annual Mount Prospect Holiday Housewalk. This former ranch home was enlarged with a second-story addition in 2006. Photos by Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • The Meier family, from left, Fiona, 13, Barb, Amelia, 11, and dog Jake, will open their house for the annual Mount Prospect Holiday Housewalk Friday, Nov. 30.

    The Meier family, from left, Fiona, 13, Barb, Amelia, 11, and dog Jake, will open their house for the annual Mount Prospect Holiday Housewalk Friday, Nov. 30.

  • The dining room in Tom and Barb Meier's home. It is one of five houses guests can tour during the annual holiday housewalk.

      The dining room in Tom and Barb Meier's home. It is one of five houses guests can tour during the annual holiday housewalk. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Family room in Tom and Barb Meier's home.

      Family room in Tom and Barb Meier's home. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • The fireplace in the Meier home is ready for the holidays.

    The fireplace in the Meier home is ready for the holidays.

  • Staircase in Tom and Barb Meier's home, which will be part of the annual Mount Prospect housewalk.

      Staircase in Tom and Barb Meier's home, which will be part of the annual Mount Prospect housewalk. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

The Mount Prospect Historical Society will hold its 31st annual Holiday Housewalk on Friday, Nov. 30, this year showcasing a neighborhood that was begun right after World War I ended.

The walk will feature the interiors of three private homes built in the late 1920s, one constructed in the 1940s, and one that was totally reconstructed and enlarged in the early 2000s.

"We chose to highlight the eastern end of the Busse Triangle because it is an area that we haven't visited with the Housewalk since 2000 and it has such a wealth of lovely, desirable homes, built starting in the 1920s," said Jill Tumberger, co-chair of the event.

Homes on streets named after members of the Busse family -- Albert, George and Edward -- will be featured and there will also be outdoor lighted podiums scattered along the walk, detailing the reason for the street names.

The homes featured this year, both inside and out, are: 107 S. Edward St., owned by John and Ellen Dini; 111 S. Edward St., owned by Joel and Julie Michalik; 222 S. Edward St., owned by Tom and Barb Meier; 121 S. George St., owned by Wayne and Susan Gordon; and 320 S. Albert St., owned by Jeff and Sue Eyles.

The lighted podiums will be erected near the heated tent at Edward and Milburn Avenue; at 702 E. Evergreen Ave.; and at 310 S. Albert St.

Development in this popular area of Mount Prospect, known as The Triangle, began in the early 1920s.

George Busse started the Mount Prospect Development Association in 1922 in order to oversee subdivision of the old Owen Rooney farm and subsequent lot sales. After subdivision, the area became known as "Busse's Eastern Addition to Mount Prospect." He and his son sold 50-by-158-foot lots with wells and septic tanks for $450 each. They also supplied streets, sidewalks and some trees and sales were brisk for a time.

But then the Depression hit in late 1929 and, as George L. Busse recalled during the early 1990s, "Pretty much all of the building here stopped during the Depression. We had been commissioned to build houses for some people, so we did that and I would try to sell some of the remaining lots so there was always a little money coming in. But during the Depression, people here could hardly hold on to their land. They didn't have much money."

Of the homes that will have their interiors featured on the housewalk, three were built between 1928 and 1930, soon after the neighborhood was created. The fourth was built in 1941, soon after the Depression ended, and the last was built as a ranch home in 1954 and was transformed into a modern Colonial in 2006.

Many of the homes built in this neighborhood during the 1920s went through receivership and many other problems during the Great Depression, as owners lost their jobs and bank accounts, becoming unable to pay their mortgages and taxes. Several of the homes were abandoned by their owners and others were repossessed by lenders and then rented until the financial storm passed.

The stories handed down are fascinating.

For instance, Peter and Catherine Glass lived in the lovely brick and stone Tudor they built at 111 S. Edward St. until 1937 when records indicate they began renting it out. Organizers are unsure where the Glass family moved but in 1942 the home was sold to a World War I veteran and his family.

A few doors away at 107 S. Edward St., a lovely one-story "American Vernacular"-style home with an enclosed front porch was built in 1928 but it appears that the people who contracted for its construction were never able to move into it, probably because of the Depression. But by 1930 Stephen and Lillian Noe had purchased it. Stephen was an accountant for the Chicago and North Western Railway and the couple had five children.

One block further to the east, at 121 S. George St., Theo and Frances Thorson contracted to have a Dutch Colonial-style home built with that style's signature gambrel roof and flaring eaves. It changed hands many times over the years. Among the subsequent owners were Arvid Carlson, a village trustee and school board member, and Robert Mustoe, a chemist for U.S. Gypsum.

German immigrants Erich and Frieda Schoenfeld built the Cape Cod-style home at 320 S. Albert St. Erich was a baker and Frieda worked as a seamstress.

The first owners of the original ranch home at 222 S. Edward St. are uncertain. Records seem to indicate that Gordon and Edna Jonswold originally purchased the lot but William and Edna Ewert had the ranch home built in 1954. The Ewerts lived here until 2003 with their three children. Joseph and Amy Bush purchased it next and they were the ones who transformed it into a large, two-story colonial home with Joseph doing the contracting himself.

The current owners, Tom and Barb Meier, are the home's third owners, purchasing it in 2016.

"Before this, we lived in a home on Maple Street that was over 100 years old and we just needed more space for our three daughters and for us to be able to entertain," Barb Meier explained. "We wanted a home with a similar, homey feel to our former one and we wanted to stay in The Triangle. So when this home came on the market, it just all fell into place."

Much of the 1954 ranch home remains, including the old living room fireplace that is now part of a generously sized dining room; the first-floor bathroom; and the free-standing garage, which still sits on its original foundation. The second owners, the Bushes, transformed the home into a large colonial about 12 years ago.

One of the first-floor bedrooms became an office/music room off the new dining room and the other two bedrooms became a staircase, an eating area and part of the new family room. When the home was enlarged, the original kitchen was doubled and a mudroom and family room were added.

Upstairs, a large master bedroom suite was built, along with three other bedrooms, another full bath and a laundry room, while the finished basement features a beautiful bar, an exercise room and an entertainment space.

When the Meiers moved in, they added extensive built-ins to the family room; changed the look of the family room fireplace; and updated and streamlined the mudroom, in addition to painting some rooms and adding their own flair through decorations.

Over the years since it was begun in 1988, the Mount Prospect Holiday Housewalk has opened approximately 150 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 $250,000 for the historical society's operating fund over its venerable history.

Patrons can purchase housewalk tickets via PayPal through the society's website (www.mtphist.org). Information about the housewalk is also featured on the Mount Prospect Historical Society's Facebook page.

"The housewalk is the society's largest fundraiser of the year," Tumberger said. "Its proceeds support the many educational endeavors of the society and helps pay for upkeep on our nearly 125-year-old museum. We urge the public to support our effort to preserve local history through enjoying the housewalk and our other activities throughout the year."

Tickets are $28 in advance, available in stores, banks and park district facilities throughout Mount Prospect or online at www.mtphist.org. They are $30 on the evening of the event at a heated tent at the corner of Edward Street and Milburn Avenue, starting at 3 p.m. Call (847) 392-9006 for more information.

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