By Grace Kuikman, President
Eugene S. Pike House Foundation
The Eugene S. Pike House Foundation and Beverly Area Arts Alliance (The Alliance) have been given the go-ahead to start raising funds and making plans to save an important piece of local history from demolition and solidify fine arts opportunities on the South Side. The Pike House Foundation and Alliance are currently working with the Forest Preserves District to nail down next steps for stabilizing the building, raising funds, and beginning restoration.
Last year, the Pike House Foundation and Alliance submitted collaborative proposals to the Forest Preserves District of Cook County, owner of the property. The proposals call for raising a significant amount of funding and donated labor to stabilize then restore the dilapidated property with the intent of establishing a dynamic arts facility for artist-in-residencies, exhibits, programming, and community events. The proposal is supported by local and state historic preservation agencies, as well as community stakeholders.
The Pike House, included in the National Register of Historic Places Ridge Historic District and recognized by the City of Chicago for its historical significance, is located at 1826 W. 91st St., on the edge of the Dan Ryan Woods. It was designed by noted architect Harry Hale Waterman and built in 1894 as a cottage garden getaway for Eugene S. Pike, (1850-1938), a prominent real estate developer and financier who once lived among Chicago’s most prestigious families on Prairie Avenue.
Pike’s family owned the house for many years, and in 1921 sold the property and house to the Forest Preserves District of Cook County to become part of Dan Ryan Woods. For many years, it served as the Watchman’s Residence for Dan Ryan Woods caretakers and their families. Sadly, when that program ended, the house was left vacant and fell into a state of extreme disrepair.
In 2022, the Historic Buildings Committee of the Ridge Historical Society and Beverly Area Planning Association nominated the house for inclusion on the Landmarks Illinois list of Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois. The house was one of just five properties statewide to be included on that list, prompting the committee to reach out to other preservation agencies and community stakeholders to develop a plan for saving the Pike House.
In 2023, the Eugene S. Pike House Foundation was created and incorporated as a 501 c 3 not for profit organization with the sole purpose of raising funds for and overseeing restoration of the historic home; it is 100% volunteer run. The Beverly Area Arts Alliance (The Alliance) has been offering community-based fine arts programming, including the Beverly Art Walk, for more than 10 years.
For information on how to support the efforts of the Eugene S. Pike House Foundation email firstname.lastname@example.org.
MORE ABOUT THE PIKE HOUSE
Eugene S. Pike (1850-1938), a prominent real estate developer and financier, once lived among Chicago’s most prestigious families on Prairie Avenue. In addition to shrewd real estate projects downtown and on the city’s expanding far South Side (including his estate in Beverly), Pike was on the Board of Directors for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.
In 1894, Pike, a garden lover, commissioned architect Harry Hale Watermen to design the gardener’s cottage in what is now North Beverly. Waterman designed many homes and buildings in Beverly/Morgan Park and Hyde Park. As a young man, he worked with Frank Lloyd Wright in the office of architect Joseph Lyman Silsbee.
For Pike, Waterman designed Tudor Revival style house with a round tower, steeply pitched roof, and carved wood ornamentation. The house is perfectly suited to its woodland environment.
In 1917, the newly formed Forest Preserves of Cook County purchased 112 acres of former farmland to create the Beverly Hills Woods, later renamed Dan Ryan Woods. In 1921, 32 acres of the Pike estate, including the gardener’s cottage, were purchased by the Forest Preserves. The house was updated in 1962, when all of the vintage architectural details except for the sunporch were removed.
After being left vacant for several years, the Forest Preserves District began looking for a user that would take over restoration and reuse of the Pike House. The house was listed for eventual demolition. As advocates for the historic Beverly/Morgan Park community, Ridge Historical Society and Beverly Area Planning Association led the campaign to create the Eugene S. Pike House Foundation and identify the Beverly Area Arts Alliance as the perfect end-user to provide high level arts and programming that aligns with the Forest Preserves mission, meets the conditions of their Request for Expression of Interest (RFEI), and fulfills community needs.
The Eugene S. Pike House is included in the Historic Architectural Resources Geographic Information System (HARGIS) compiled by the former Illinois Historic Preservation Agency in the 1970s and is a significant building in the context of the surrounding community, it is rated “orange” in the city’s Chicago Historic Resources Survey.
The Pike House is situated in the only section of the Forest Preserves of Cook County that is entirely located within the City of Chicago. It sits on the top of the Blue Island Ridge, a geological feature formed by glacial activity 12,000 years ago, and is just steps from the historic 91st Street Rock Island (Metra) train station, the Major Taylor bike trail, and the Wild Blossom Meadery.