V28-3 An Unusual House on Glenwood

Vol. XXVIII No. 3 - SUMMER 2017

By LeRoy Blommaert

It is perfectly square in shape, sits on the rear of a lot with a frame house in front, looks stone but, surprisingly, is actually concrete. The building at 5708 Glenwood has always intrigued passers-by. Today it a residence, but it looks like it was something else before. In this case looks are not deceiving; it was not originally a residence. It was built with an office on the ground floor and an apartment above.

Both the rear building and the frame house in front were built the same year – 1904. The permit for the frame house was issued in May; the one for the stone building to the rear was issued in November – just six months apart. Both permits were issued to a C.E. Russell. The 1906 City Directory lists him at 2461 Southport (the building’s pre-1909 address), with an occupation as contractor, as does also the 1910 directory.

The Chicago Tribune lists three ads that he placed. The first on March 10, 1906 is the most interesting – and informative: “For Sale – Edgewater – Ripe Vacant; 2nd mortgage if build all concrete with my patent; cost 15 c cubic ft. Investigate this. C.E. Russell 2461 Southport” The other ads indicate he was also a realtor with offices in the building. He sold 5708 Glenwood in 1912 and thereafter disappears from all records.

In July 1921, the property was sold to Margaret Walsh, a widow (although she had an agreement with the previous owner beginning in May 1918, and was listed as living there in the 1917 City Directory). It remained in the Walsh family until 1992, when her daughter Agnes J., who was a stenographer for the Chicago & North Western Railroad, died at the age of 95. Agnes’ older sister Rose who predeceased her (August 19, 1970) was in the millinery business and may have operated the business out of the first floor commercial space. However, long before that – in 1917 to be exact – before Margaret purchased the property, she was listed as living there, occupation, grocer, so we can assume that for a while it was a small grocery store.

In November 1996, the building was purchased by Martha Lavey, who owned it for 21 years. Martha was an actress and the acclaimed artistic director of the Steppenwolf Theatre for 20 years.

What we don’t know is when it was converted into a single family residence and by whom. However, it seems likely that it was done by architect Goce Tomislav Arsovski, who owned it between 1992 and 1996.