Evanston aldermen tonight are to decide whether to designate the building at 1726 Hinman Ave. as a city landmark or let the property’s owner, the Sigma Chi Foundation, move ahead with plans to demolish it.

The city’s Preservation Commission, at the request of Jim Kollross of 1210 Michigan Ave., has voted to designate the property as a landmark because it was built by and the home of a Swedish-American architect, John Augustus Nyden.

Nyden had demolished a Queen Anne Victorian home that previously existed on the site to build his home.

The commission also claims that the building is a fine example of Colonial Revival architecture.

The foundation and its architectural consultant argue that the building lacks the symmetry and other architectural featuers that characterize the Colonial Revival style. And they say Nyden “appears on no known list of preeminient architects or in any known architectural history books or publications.”

They also argue that it would be prohibitively expensive — at an estimated cost of $3.2 million — to restore the building, and that the cost would interfere with the foundation’s ability to carry out its charitable activities.

The foundation had assets of over $27 million according to its most recent IRS 990 filing. It awards scholarships to members of its namesake fraternity and provides training for fraternity chapter leaders.

The foundation also argues that through several decades of its activities the Preservation Commission had failed to indicate that the site was worthy of preservation, even though it sits just across the street from the Lakeshore Historic District.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Will they never stop !

    One person or another will try to ‘Preserve’ just about anything in Evanston, no matter the costs to the owner or needs of the community [or lack of]. Probably if Lincoln spit on the ground in Evanston, someone would want to make it a historical site !

    They should grow-up and get a life.

    1. Landmark Preservation or Demolish

      My dogs and I have been known to walk along that street. In my humble opinion, that house cannot be really architecturally significant since we don’t recognize it.  I doubt that my dogs have given it their “seal of approval.”

      significant —— That house doesn’t seem to make the grade.

  2. Demolition
    I’m encouraged to see this word uttered in Evanston. Time to start using this word to solve the Harley Clarke albatross. More demo, less tax dollar waste and more parkland

    1. Yep…flip a coin…rock

      Yep…flip a coin…rock/paper/scissors, etc…just make a decision and do it.   If the guys dogs weren’t impressed enouight by it to mark the territory, then it needs to go!   LOL

    2. The Preservation Commission

      The Preservation Commission unanimously approved a report favoring landmark status for 1726 Hinman.  John Nyden was a prolific architect who designed many buildings, both in Evanston and the Chicago area, and even out of state.  Several are Evanston Landmarks, or listed in National Register of Historic Places.  There are other preservationists and architects who favor landmark status.  Landmarks Illinois has come out in favor of Landmark status.  This was his personal home, where he lived until the end of his life.

      The lack of symmetry does not disqualify it from being considered an example of the Colonial Revival style.  See Lee and Virginia Savage McAlester’s “Field Guide to American Houses.”

      The last available IRS Form 990 (downloaded from guidestar.org) shows that Sigma Chi went from approximately $23M at the beginning of the fiscal year to $27M at the end of this same fiscal year.  If they truly were a non-profit charitable organization, that $4M windfall would have been spent on their charitable causes:  promoting education through scholarships, and fighting alcohol and drug addiction.  Instead, this windfall was hoarded rather than spent to help others.  I also find it amusing to hear a fraternity claims to be leading the charge for temperance and sobriety with their addiction treatment mission.

      Sigma Chi’s $3.2M estimate for restoring the building is ludicrous.  We got an estimate from Kastenholz Construction Services, which recently restored the Oscar Mayer mansion at 1030 Forest, for a fraction of that amount.  This would be for a museum-quality restoration, not average construction–tile roofs restored, copper gutters, replacing rotted exterior woodwork and restoring windows.  To just do the exterior, it would be $368,500.  To do a total restoration both interior and exterior, including all new mechanicals, central air, new kitchen and bathrooms, woodwork and floors refinished, new wiring, water lines, new electric and water service, etc., would total $1,160,500 for both interior and exterior.  The Oscar Mayer mansion, 1030 Forest, was in worse shape than 1726 Hinman, and twice the size, and did not cost anywhere near $3.2M to fix.  1030 Forest is currently listed with Baird Warner; photos of the quality of work on this listing can be compared with online articles showing the “Before” pictures.  Kastenholz Construction Services did a first-class restoration job.

      Comments about the house must not be worth saving because somebody’s dog doesn’t recognize its architectural merit are bizarre!  I thought we had a higher proportion of educated people in Evanston…

      I hope we preserve it.  If we just level all the beautiful old homes and rip out the trees in Evanston to make way for high-rises, we may as well be in Rogers Park–a depressing prospect.  I didn’t move here to get hemmed in by ugly high-rises, commercial buildings and nursing homes.

      There have been comments that demolition will increase the real estate tax base.  Sigma Chi, despite its rapidly growing assets, pays no real estate tax on their headquarters at 1714 Hinman because they are, theoretically, non-profit.  The neighbors who will have to look at their ugly expansion ARE paying real estate taxes.  If 1726 were sold and restored, the taxes collected on it would go up.

      Considering Sigma Chi’s assets, you would think they could have afforded to paint the woodwork, patch the roof, and clean out the gutters.  That would have prevented the deterioration we see today, which is in violation of the agreement they made with the city when they bought 1726–that they agreed to keep it appearing to be a single family home, and maintain it in excellent condition.  They have not lived up to this agreement.  Leveling the home and putting in a parking facility or office building would not live up to this agreement, either.  I’m surprised the city building inspectors have turned a blind eye to the peeling lead paint.  Isn’t this a code violation?

      Sigma Chi would be far better served by buying the rental apartment building adjacent to their headquarters at 1700 Hinman, and selling 1726 to somebody who will actually restore it and live there.  1700 was part of a large purchase in 2015 by Speedwagon Properties in Chicago.  They bought up the entire Raymond group portfolio.  1700 is bigger, and around 20-25 years old.  It has excellent cash flow, and vacancies fill almost immediately.  Sigma Chi could keep it as an income-producing rental, and possibly take over occasional vacancies as they come available for additional office space, if needed.  It has a lot more parking, including indoor parking, than they could have at 1726, which is on a smaller lot.  Speedwagon Properties is a group of investors who pool their money to buy income-producing real estate, and distressed real estate to flip.  They aren’t emotionally attached to these buildings, and I hear they are open to finding buyers for their Hinman rental properties at 1700 and 1740. 


      1. What’s the point?
        What’s the point of owning a property if somebody can make an arbitrary judgment at zero cost to them and deprive rightful owners of their rights?

      2. last second demands

        Virtually nothing mentioned here tilts in favor of landmark status.  So Nyden was prolific, meaning we already have plenty of his work in landmark status.  Lack of symmetry doesn’t disqualify the property, nor does it mean anything exceptional requiring qualification.  For preservationist to suddenly now demand status for a property long visible and known about is unfair to the owners and unjustified at this point in time.   

        Sigma Chi’s IRS filings are irrelevant to this discussion. Calling their 4 million growth a “windfall” that was “hoarded” shows a mean spirited bias.  True, I have no knowledge of Sigma Chi, but I’m fairly sure much of their mission is to grow their foundation to finance future scholarships, not rehab old, no longer functional property.         

        If this property were of real value then preservationist should have had their act together on this one decades ago, the current timing feels a lot like bullying, I hope your sudden demands fail.

      3. Perhaps the The Preservation

        Perhaps the The Preservation Commission could split the cost of the restoration so no one has an incentive to exxagerate. 

      4. Foundation “hoarding”

        A charitable foundation that saves its money isn’t likely just hoarding. The point of a charitable foundation is often to preserve and grow their principal — multiplying this wealth to ultimately give more scholarships than if they had simply disbursed the money initially, and/or insuring the foundation’s perpetuity.

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