WINNETKA – The new owners of a $10 million lakefront mansion in Winnetka have applied for a demolition permit with the village, making it potentially one of the priciest tear-downs on the North Shore.
Philip and Janice Beck closed on the historic 1904 home located on over two acres at 735 Sheridan Road just days into 2018. Mr. Beck is a prominent Chicago attorney and founding partner of Bartlett Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott LLP, who headed the George W. Bush trial team in Bush v. Gore during the 2000 presidential election.
But despite filing for a demolition permit before closing on the house, it was reported in Crain’s that the Beck’s are unsure whether they will renovate the property or ultimately decide to tear it down.
The Beck’s realtor, Jena Radley of @properties, who represented the buyers and the sellers, told Crain’s that the couple wants to modernize the interior, which may or may not include demolishing the house.
Chris Enck, an architect and Winnetka resident who serves on Winnetka’s landmark preservation commission, told DailyNorthShore that the Beck’s demolition application was presented at the commission’s December meeting.
“We were surprised and disappointed that it came before us,” Enck said. “It is one of the most recognizable historic mansions in that area,” he noted.
According to the commission’s agenda materials, the couple is considering demolishing the main residence, while maintaining the existing coach house, pool houses and pool. The pool and pool houses were added to the home in 1999. If they decide to proceed, construction is proposed to begin in March 2018, and conclude by May 2020, according to the agenda materials.
While the commission lacks authority to stop demolition of historic homes, it does decide whether a home is sufficiently historically significant to merit a Historical Architectural Impact Study (HAIS). When a home in Winnetka of historical or architectural significance is slated for demolition, the village’s preservation ordinance provides that demolition can be delayed until an HAIS is completed. An HAIS is prepared by an architectural historian and documents the house with pictures, measurements and other historic details. The HAIS is then kept on file as a historical record of the house. In this case, the Winnetka Historical Society noted that the home was historically significant, and the commission decided a HAIS was required.
The 1904 mansion was designed by architect Joseph Llewellyn, a prolific Chicago architect, who is known primarily for designing schools, according to Lisa DiChiera, director of advocacy at Landmarks Illinois. DiChiera noted that this home is an example of one of the earliest grand mansions on the lakefront.
Like neighboring Wilmette and Kenilworth, Winnetka’s village code does not provide historic landmark protection. The commission has the authority to require an HIAS before a permit is issued, and delay demolition by 60 days, once the permit is approved.
According to Enck, the Beck’s architect brought up issues about the house and its current layout at the commission’s meeting. The commissioners encouraged the architect to consider ways to reach the couple’s goals by renovating the home.