One of the ironies of the effort to landmark the building that now stands at 1726 Hinman Ave. is that, if Evanston had had a Preservation Commission a hundred years ago, it might never have been built.
The charming Queen Anne Victorian pictured above stood on the site and was a mere 46 years old in 1921 when architect John Nyden decided to exercise his dominion over the property and tore it down, replacing it with his own rather eclectic interpretation of a Colonial Revival home.
1726 Hinman Ave. in a 2007 assessor’s office photo.
Surely the preservationists of 1921 would have demanded that Nyden restore the Queen Anne building instead at his own expense regardless of the plans he’d had to build the home he wanted on the site.
And that illustrates the fundamental flaw of the impulse to force preservation — it assumes that whatever has acquired the patina of age is better than anything new that might ever be built on a site.
Now, I have lived in old houses most of my adult life and have spent a considerable amount of money fixing them up. I get that old houses can be charming and delightful to live in despite their peculiarities.
But in a city that has already marked off more than 16 percent of its land area for preservation in historic districts, it is time for the City Council to remove the Preservation Commission’s authority to recommend landmarking of any additional properties without the consent of the property owner.
Historic districts outlined on a city map of Evanston.
Landmarking is fine, when done with the owner’s consent. Without it, it’s an abuse of state power.
Demo or landmark on Hinman? (6/12/17)