Counting Your Blessings

Vol. I No. 1 - FALL 1988

By: Gloria Evenson

Rev. Joseph Isfan, Associate Pastor of Arad Buzac Church in Arad, Romania, was faced with a momentous decision in 1976. Religious restrictions and a desire for a better lifestyle finally caused Rev. Isfan, his wife, three children and a brother and his family to immigrate to the United States.

The Isfans arrived in Chicago and moved into a one-room apartment in the Hagland building on Foster, between Ashland and Clark. The building was then owned by another brother, Sam Isfan, who subsequently sold it in 1979.

Through working endless shifts of maintenance and CTA driver jobs, and very frugal spending, the family began to put aside their money. An employer recognized the Reverend’s abilities in maintenance engineering and sent him to school for further training.

As a result, Rev. Isfan became building supervisor of the Atrium Village complex in 1979 and eventually purchased a 6-flat of his own at 5137 N. Paulina. On November 27, 1985, he signed the closing papers for purchase of the Hagland building and began extensive renovations to transform the structure into "Romanian Village."

Constructed in 1925 and named after its builder and first owner, the Hagland building has long been thought of as a cornerstone of Andersonville. An open house in March 1986 revealed 46 apartments, 12 stores, 28 offices, 28 hotel rooms, 2 lodge facilities and Nelson’s Funeral Parlor. The building has many unique features, such as a marble lobby, cage-type elevator and pull-out sink basins. Most of the original furniture still remains in the hotel rooms.

Much clean-up and restoration was needed and Rev. Isfan hasn’t relaxed much since his success. In addition to his work on the building, he is Deacon in charge of maintenance at Philadelphia Church at 5437 N. Clark and oversees the needs of Romanians attending the Church.

To quote Rev. Isfan, "Ten years ago I lived in a one-room apartment here, and today I am the landlord. Only in America can one do that; God bless America!"