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Commission wants cottage saved

The Evanston Preservation Commission urged a developer Tuesday to preserve the tiny cottage at 1119 Oak Ave.


1119 Oak Ave.

Commission members postponed a vote on developer Michael Sieja’s plan to replace the cottage with a two-and-a-half story frame home.

The cottage has only 336 square feet of living space, according to county assessor’s records.

Only Commissioner Stanley Gerson indicated that he would be willing to see the cottage demolished.

Commissioners instead urged architect Ellen Galland to come up with a revision to the project design that would permit the cottage to be moved on the lot and turned into a studio or similar out-building for the proposed new home.


A model of architect Ellen Galland’s proposed design for the new home at 1119 Oak Ave.

The cottage is located in the Ridge Historic District. Preservation activist Anne Earle says it was built about 1873, the first of many homes in Evanston constructed by builder-developer James Wigginton, the founder of the Evanston Fuel & Material Company.

County records show Mr. Sieja bought the property in March for $460,000 from local architect and developer Andrew Spatz.

Most other homes in the neighborhood are much larger.

Ms. Earle says Mr. Wigginton built, and at different times lived in, two other houses on the block.

1115 Oak Ave.
One, a brick Queen Anne next door at 1115 Oak Ave., was built about 1884. The other, a Prairie-style home across the street at 1118 Oak Ave., was built around 1914.

1118 Oak Ave.

“All three buildings are of the highest level of significance,” Ms. Earle said, “This is the only site in Evanston that has three buildings, representing three eras of the life of one owner. He came here as a young man, built the house they’re asking to demolish as a starter house. Then his business was successful, and he built the house south of it. Much later, after his first wife died, he remarried and built the Prairie-style house across the street.”

Mr. Sieja said, “Many of the neighbors speak of the cottage as the grey shack. It doesn’t have any architectural significance, though perhaps some historical significance. It’s not known who designed the cottage, and our research didn’t indicate that he actually lived there.”

Commissioner Thomas Prairie said, “It seems to me Evanston should have room in it for quaint little homes like this to exist, even though things around it are not to the same scale.”

The commissioners suggested changing the design so the driveway for the new house would be on the north side of the property, adjacent to the drive on the neighboring property. If the cottage were moved to the back of the lot near the driveway, commissioners said, people would still be able to see it from the street by looking down either drive.

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