Tudor Revival Residence
1190 WESTMOOR AVE,
Coming Full Circle
It was January 2015, and I distinctly remember the feeling as I walked through this grand Tudor Revival Style home in Winnetka, IL. As I pulled up, I didn't know exactly what I was walking into. Kyle, one of my lumber suppliers who owned the deconstruction company on the job, gave me the address and told me to wear sturdy shoes and expect to wear a hardhat. That element of danger combined with being behind the scenes definitely added a feeling of adventure.
Walking in, I had no idea of the home;s history, but I was immediately taken aback by its presence, even in its half-salvaged state. I knew it was built in the late 1920’s and sat on a very large parcel of land in Winnetka, one of Chicago’s most prestigious North Shore suburbs on Lake Michigan. Kyle escorted me on a tour, side-stepping the crew hard at work gutting a stately and stunning wood staircase. We arrived at the third floor—half exposed to the open sky.
I was in awe that such a beautiful home was being torn down and that I was one of the last to be inside.
I imagined the many milestones happening in this home—births, and birthdays, celebrations, secrets shared, memories made, tears cried, kids growing up, dinner parties, people growing old.This was the first place that had made me overcome with the uncanny feeling that important “life” things happened here. ...the first place that brought tears to my eyes as a witness to something significant passing with this deconstruction. Why should a place like this be demolished? I felt I had the meaningful task of passing part of this special home and its memories on to its next life.
My mind wandered as someone explained that the entire third floor had been the servants’ quarters. I overheard the staircase,among other European architectural elements dating back to the early 1900’s, was imported from England.I believe I was also trying to grasp that my little business, just a few years old, was purchasing all of the wood that held up this enormous grand home for almost a century Within weeks, the entire bones of this structure would be sitting in piles of wood at my woodshop, being prepared for its next life as furniture in someone else’s home. That very idea struck me at the moment as being significant in its own right. A structure that the town of Winnetka’s historians had been fighting to preserve and save from demolition (they lost that battle) was going to be trucked up to my little woodshop just 35 minutes north. While sad, I was honored to rescue the gorgeous, old-growth, 2”-thick, Douglas Fir timbers and hopeful to reclaim their next life.
When I returned home, I began researching anything I could find online about the home at 1190 Westmoor. I stumbled upon a document from the Winnetka Landmark Preservation Commission. An architectural historian had recently completed a HAIS (Historical Architectural Impact Study) on the home in an effort to defend its preservation.. Unfortunately, tearing down structurally sound, century-old homes in affluent communities to make way for even larger mansions is quite common in the United States. I devoured the 13 page study quickly. I learned about the various notable families who had lived there over the years. 1190 Westmoor sat on eight spacious acres and was built in 1927 by Dudley Cates and his wife Gwendolen Cates. They hired architect Edwin H, Clark renowned for both his private residences and public buildings in Chicago to design a large Tudor Revival style home for their growing family of four children. Six live-in servants from Germany, Sweden and Norway, included a chauffuer, waitress, nurse and cook.
Dudley served as Secretary of the Capital Issues Committee of the United States Treasury, the group that directed the flow of capital during World War l. In 1919, Cates served as assistant director of the War Risk Insurance Board. Gwendolen Cates was a member of the Women’s Organization for National Prohibition Reform, and in 1930 hosted an open meeting inher home at 1190 Westmoor, presenting the organization’s views against the 18th amendment to women of Chicago’s North Shore suburbs. I thought to myself, “Wow, I was standing in this parlor room! I can only imagine the discussions.”
Over the years, two other notable families also took up residence at 1190 Westmoor. As I read, my mind drifted back to the rooms I had explored earlier that day. The idea that kept surfacing was how personal our homes are to us. They are ours for a time, and then life passes to make room for the next generation, the next family, the next milestones, the next stories.The choices we make in our homes— fixtures, architectural details, textiles, flooring, furniture—t’s all very personal. My imagination was full imagining the experience of living in Chicago and its North Shore at this time in history.
For the first time, I truly understood that these things we own, that we invite into our lives … even the furniture we build at our workshop for our customers … these items are more than things. They are witnesses to a time before us, and their adaptation and revival today connect us to others in times past, and in turn, connect us to a future time. They bring us … full circle.