A brief history of 1610

February 9, 2010

Map of 'the old neighborhood'

As seen from the above survey of the bucktown neighborhood, our building was built sometime before 1886. Originally called Girard Street, it was renamed Honore after Chicago Businessman Henry Honore  sometime in the 20th century.  1610 can be seen as property number 48 in the map below:

1610 listed as property 48

1610 N Honore St (formerly Girard St), otherwise known as lot 48 of E. R. Smith’s subdivision of Block 35 of Sheffield’s Addition to Chicago was (apparently) originally part of a plot of land once owned by Charles G Wicker (as in the Charles Wicker, of Wicker Park, the small park located one half-mile southwest of the property, general name of the neighborhood and title of the Hollywood feature film starring Josh Harnett).   Somehow property #48, which was once a combined lot with #49, made its way into the hands of Nathan Corwith.  And so our story begins:

1868 (yes 3 years after the end of the civil war)-  Nathan Corwith sold the property along with another dozen parcels to Richard Hurd for $5,400.

1870 -Hurd dies and wills the property to his daughter Anna who marries Richard Folsom from Cincinati.  (To his wife he leaves their Ohio home, $3,000, household goods, and ‘all his horses, carriages, and harnesses’)

1883 (August) – Anna (Hurd) Folsom sells the combined property (#48 & #49) to Henry Holpe for $700

1883 (November) – Holpe (along with his wife Hanna) divides the property and sells #48 (1610 N Honore) to Tollef Tollagsen and #49 to Amalie Schmragh (a spinster) for $450/each, pocketing a healthy 28% profit in just 3 months

1883 – 1890 – during this time Schmragh seems to have borrowed money from Tollagsen as well as a ‘bagman’ named George Coombs, using the #49 property as collateral.

1890- Tollagsen (and his wife Hilda) sell #48 to Wenzel Majeski for $3500- a 90% annual profit for Tollagsen (though as suggested by the map from 1886, Tollagsen may have been the person who built the home which stands there today)

1894- Majeski sells #48 to Alexander Wiedenhoft for an unknown amount of money (Majeski appears to have financed the deal for Wiedenhoft)

1924 – Wiedenhoft dies.

1925 (Feb) – Wiedenhoft’s heirs sell #48 to George Smegeil (a bachelor) for an unknown amount of money.

1925 (April)- Smegeil sells to William F. Ludwig by allowing Ludwig to assume a debt of $1800 that dates back to 1910 when Wiedenhoft borrowed against the property from a guy named Neuman. (Neuman!)

1925 Ludwig also buys #49 once again consolidating the two properties

1929 (March)- 7 months before the ‘Black Tuesday’ crash of the Wall St, the Ludwig family (operating under the trust ‘Ludwig & Ludwig’) sells the combined property to William and Helen Balrig.

1930s- the Balrigs seem to get in a bit of jam, having a mechanics lean placed on the property by the General Accept Company, and borrowing money from Seymour Marks, and the Noel State Bank, posting both properties as collateral.

1938 – the Balrigs quit their claim to the joint property and it goes to Jean Leibowitz (a spinster) who later marries a man named Diamond and takes his name.

1939 -1942 At the end of the great depression, there is a rapid series of transfers of the property.  Diamond (Leibowitz) splits the property again and quits her claim on #48 to Erwin Klenn, who then quits his claim to Sarah Owcarz, who then quits her claim to Josephine Owcarz who then quits her claim to Sarah Carmst

1949- Eventually there is a real sale again and Sarah and her husband Edward Carmst sell to John Schaeffer and his wife Ellen, who take out a $4,000 mortgage.  Shaeffer  pulls the only building permit listed for the property which interestingly enough is for a 20 x 20 garage which (per the permit documents) is estimated to cost $460.  (60 years later we’ll rebuild the garage at a cost of $115,000).

1956 (June)-Schaeffer sells to Peter Nikolich

1956 (October)-Nikolich sells to George Owcarz Jr and his wife

1974- Owcarz sells to Manuel Ramirez for an unknown amount of money.  Ramirez takes out a $10,000 mortgage to purchase the property.

2008- Ramirez sells the property to Thomas McGrath (bachelor) for $565,000.

2010- stay tuned. . . . . .

(special thanks to the staff at the Cook County Recorder of Deeds Office- Pat, Michelle, Sam, Lawrence, and Rich, for their education and help in navigation)

New Things from Old things

February 3, 2010
Playing with the 120 year old wood from the original structure has been one of the more rewarding parts of the project.  Oxidized and dark brown today, once the rough cut wood is run through the planer the golden hues of the underlying material are released to be seen again.

120 year old rough cut lumber

the same board after its been run through the planer

The following few pictures show a nearly 100% recycled bed made from material on the site.  The old fence posts were cut down to 10″ and the paint was ground off and used to serve as the legs of the bed.  The lath board planks that have been made (see the earlier Dust to Diamonds post on this blog) became the decorative sides and shelves of the bed.  Even the mattress supports came from old maple hard wood floors that were salvaged from the house.  Some nuts, bolts and washers were purchased to hold the thing together but that is about all that was new.

Old fence post

old lumber center and side rails with flooring supports

The final product

To see more pieces fabricated from the old material at 1610, see the Furniture page on this web site.

Reduce, Re-use, Recycle

January 26, 2010
The initial idea in rehabbing 1610 was to ‘unwrap the building’ by removing all the structural/decorative elements, replacing all the inefficient mechanicals, insulation and windows and re-wrapping the building with the salvaged structural/decorative elements.

  Unfortunately a lot of stuff simply could not be re-used- The building had layers upon layers of materials added over the years from all 3 faces of the building (walls, ceilings and floors). 

Old hard wood floors were covered first by sheets of linoleum, then square vinyl tiles, then carpeting.  The walls had plaster, wallpaper, then new sheets of drywall and wood paneling.  The ceiling had plaster ceilings covered by 8″ square ceiling tiles staple to the surface and then had a drop ceiling.  Even the front brick of the house had a faux brick covering:

Faux brick (including the 1610 address) over common brick


typical room treatment


What wasn’t saved was first offered to ‘the urban reclaim market’:

Now you see it

(moments later) now you don't


metal in the building

The metal in a pick-up truck and the guys who put it there


I looked into the possibility of recycling everything else- including 3’x5′ ceiling panels. Armstrong ceilings will take the stuff back and turn it back into new ceiling tiles- as long as its not wet or painted (much of mine was) and they only take it by the semi-truck load.  I found a place in the northern suburbs which acted as a consolidating point, but when I did the math -the carbon footprint of driving the few dozen panels I had up north outweighed the savings of recycling them.

The rest (again unfortunately) wound up in an RSI (Recycling Systems Incorporated) dumpster, where they continued to sort and salvage anything they could.

loaded dumpster


 The only good news about these extra materials added layer upon layer to the house- is that they did a reasonably good job of protecting the 100-year lumber, lath and floors- the subject of next week’s post.

Visit from the USGBC

January 23, 2010

10 members of the US Green Building Council (USGBC) – Chicago Chapter came by on Friday for a tour of the Greenest Garage and the single family home.  The group included architects, landscape designers, engineers, builders and realtors.  I think they had a good time.

The tour group on the top floor (future Kitchen, Dining and Living space)

The gang, with a shot looking west (towards the garage)


Meanwhile, ‘Casey’ the brick subcontractor and his team installed the lintels on the window sills.

Jasiek (Red coat), and Kazek (Casey) share a moment about green building


Staszek (Black Hat) and Lezek (not smoking for once!) with looks of pride at the near completion of their work


 All the brick (except for the new lintels) was either a) left existing b) reused from the site after walls were moved or windows created, or c) came from the Antique Brick company located in Chicago which sells salvaged brick from demolition on other projects.

The upper west facade


A few words about wood

January 21, 2010

Many builders (those focused on make-it-fast, make-it-cheap) begin a building project by first tearing down the old structure- with no regard to salvage- sending to landfills perfectly good materials that could be used again.

The grapple hook method (notice the furniture and drapes still in the room)


which turns perfectly good lumber to splinters


                 We are trying to responsible with the use of wood on project in 3 primary ways: 1) re-use nearly all  the 1880s lumber that was already part of the home.  2) when purchasing new lumber make sure it is FSC certified and 3) in general use less of it.

1) The original building was built sometime before 1886, when a two-by-four measured 2″ x 4″.  It dark and brown and weathered, but run it through the planer and its beautiful and still strong.  Technically if we were going to use the lumber for structural support we should have it tested for strength.  But, none of our partition walls are load bearing so we can skip that step- and I would bet that the old lumber would perform every bit as good as new lumber.  Using manual labor and techniques that are also outlined in the ‘bible of deconstruction’ Unbuilding by Bob Falk and Brad Guy we saved as much of the old growth lumber as possible.

two piles (one near one far) of old lumber

Old 2 x 8's ripped into 'new' 2 x 4s



 2) When new lumber is purchased we make sure to use FSC lumber (look under the greenest garage tab for more information about FSC):

a typical stamp (you can also find this on most paper products that are sustainably manufactured)

3) By changing the time-honored standard of placing studs at 16″ on-center, to 24″ on-center we can save 25% or more of the amount of material we use (whether its re-used or FSC).

a 24" OC wall

Mixing New (FCS Vertical) and Old (Old growth blocking)


                                                                                                                              If you are interested in purchasing old-growth salvaged lumber check out the Rebuilding Exchange.  It’s a great resource for purchasing small quantities of the stuff when you need it.

Part of the team

January 12, 2010

Gerhard (Architect), and Ted (General Contractor) at a recent site meeting brace for the cold. 

Gerard (left) is really not always so serious!


Part of the great fun of this project has been working with the team involved in bringing everything together.  Everyone learns from everyone else and we frequently debate and challenge each other on what sustainability really is! 

This is Woytek and me- you should recognize him from earlier posts: 

Two Birds of a feather


 Woytek speaks virtually , strike that, Woytek speaks no english. 

I speak zero polish. 

Every day we have a conversation. 

I don’t know how it started but every day, with complete animation Woytek tells me his opinion of the furniture I’m making in the wood shop.  I usually reply with thanks and ask him more about if he thinks its well-built.  Then he expounds further and I consider his response.  Then he leaves and I have no clue whether we were talking about the same thing. 

Somehow the other day though when he cut his hand, I was able to produce black electrical tape to wrap a wet bandage around his thumb, which apparently is EXACTLY what he was looking for. 

And so it goes. . . .

And a roof goes on. . .

January 4, 2010

the East face

For Christmas, the Greenest Garage in Chicago received a single family home with a roof on top!  After a pleasant early morning, the crew from ACT construction battled the elements to add the insulation and weather shield.  Success came late in the afternoon.

FSC Plywood Deck looking East

What will be a rarely viewed perspective of the Greenest Garage

Vladamir- fiddler on the roof


The latest look