Kris Hartzell is the Director of Facilities and Visitor Services, as well as our resident architectural historian. This is her 7th year writing the House Walk Book, and as usual, she is happy to share the fascinating stories of Evanston.
We are looking forward to the 39th Annual Mother’s Day House Walk this Sunday, May 11th from 12:00– 5:00 PM. The six houses on this year’s house walk are located in Northwest Evanston. The houses are open for touring, allowing guests to view the beautiful interiors of these architecturally and historically significant homes. Each home has an intriguing history, whether of the people who lived therein or the architect who created the design. Together the houses and the people tell a story of Evanston and how the city developed over time, revealing or reminding us of forgotten treasures along the way.
These western sections of Evanston were established later than east Evanston and have their own unique stories to tell. As the population of Evanston grew, unsettled land was sought for expansion and settlement. Most of this area was annexed to Evanston in 1916, the last significant section of Evanston to be added, completing the final boundaries of Evanston. Large tracts of open land were sold to developers, who in turn sold the land to builders and investors for improvement. Many of these builders were Evanstonians, local residents who hired Evanston contractors and local architects to design and build houses. All but one of the houses on the walk this year were built after the First World War and reflect the popular residential styles and technologies of the late 1920s and early 1930s.
The people who designed and built the houses were affected by cataclysmic events of the time. One family were refugees who had fled the Assyrian genocide and survived the Depression to establish as successful business still operating today. One woman architect fought discrimination in college and in the working world to achieve professional success. The stories are interwoven with each other, the town and the times. Like the style of brick on many of the houses, it is a tapestry of blended hues.
The area was made accessible by the street car tracks that ran up Central Street. The right-of-way for the spur that went out to Harm’s Woods and the golf courses is still visible along Lincolnwood Drive. Real estate offices replaced picnic grounds at the end of the line. The largest picnic was the annual Swedish Day hosted for over sixty years on the grounds of Three Crowns Park. The huge crowds put a strain on the street car service, and even today Evanstonians can recall the event. As a sponsor of the walk this year, they will be open for refreshments and ticket sales.
For more information about this year’s house walk, please see our website. For more information about the houses, please go on the walk! Tickets can be purchased ahead of time or day of the walk. To purchase tickets online, click here.