Self-guided tour of Hinsdale’s Zook homes in the making
Baltimore Ortega of Clarendon Hills leads a bike tour of R. Harold Zook homes Saturday, starting at the home and studio in Katherine Legge Memorial Park in Hinsdale. | Rob Hart~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 15, 2012 1:50PM
HINSDALE — The Hinsdale Historical Society worked with an avid bicyclist to create a map of houses in the village designed by R. Harold Zook, which people on foot or on bicycle could see in an afternoon.
Baltimore Ortega, who lives in Clarendon Hills, is a member of the Elmhurst Bicycle Club. He approached the historical society with the idea.
“We jumped on the opportunity,” said Janine Wilkosz, administrator of the society’s Anderson Architecture Center.
“I’m doing more of the history of Zook and (Ortega) is doing the bicycle part of it.”
The route was launched Saturday morning with Ortega leading a group of cyclists who started at the Zook Home and Studio in Katherine Legge Memorial Park.
Wilkosz briefed the riders and others interested in Zook about the home, built in the style of an English Cotswold cottage, where Zook lived from 1924 until his death in 1949. The home and garage, with a studio upstairs, were moved to the park in 2005 to preserve it. The original location of the home is one of the spots Ortega and Wilkosz designated on their map.
“I can’t believe nobody did this before,” said Ortega, who is a fan of Frank Lloyd Wright and has visited many of his homes.
As local architects go, Zook is not as well known as Wright.
“Wright had an international impact,” Wilkosz said. “Zook is much more local.”
In addition to residences in the western suburbs, Zook designed commercial and municipal buildings, such as the St. Charles Municipal Center in St. Charles, Ill., and the Pickwick Theater in Park Ridge.
He also was a versatile architect, designing buildings in the Georgian, Mediterranean and Tudor revival styles.
Wilkosz tried to highlight examples of these styles in choosing which homes the self-guided tour will include. She has identified and numbered 18 stopping points, that take people from KLM Park north on County Line Road to Eighth Street, then back on Seventh, and continuing north to homes on Third and First streets, Hinsdale Avenue, Elm Street and Forest Road, before ending on the 800 block of The Pines Street, where the house called Sylvan Castle is found.
Wilkosz’s guide points out not only architectural details, like the spider-web windows and decorative wooden trim that Zook favored, but some of the houses’ histories. Sylvan Castle, for example, built in 1871, was so impressive, it reportedly drew visitors to the World’s Columbian Exposition to Hinsdale to see it. A new owner hired Zook in 1933 to completely redesign the house to look as it does today.
“People like stories,” Ortega said. An individual or small group of riders could spend one to two hours on the tour.
The Zook tour should appeal to people interested in architecture or local history, or those who just want some exercise.
“You don’t have to be on a bike, you can be walking,” Ortega said.
“It’s something fun to do on a Saturday or Sunday,” Wilkosz said. “You get to see your community, you get to see what new houses are being built, what changes are being made.”
Ortega led a group of about 32 riders on Saturday.
“That shows how much interest there is in something like this,” Ortega said.
The cyclists covered at least 7 miles, but, due to the size of their group, did not go by every Zook home on the map.
“They said it was one of the best rides they were on. They really liked that it was an educational, cultural kind of ride,” Ortega said.
Wilkosz will refine her map and guide before she has it printed and available at the Hinsdale Historical Society and other public places.
Contact Janine Wilkosz from the Roger & Ruth Anderson Architecture Center at www.hinsdalearchitecture.org, for more information.