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George Millard House, Facing Threat of Demolition, Sells to New Owners

The sale of the George Madison Millard House (1906) in Highland Park, Illinois, closed on Dec. 15, 2015. The Chicago Tribune reported that it sold for $687,500.

The previous owners sought a permit to demolish the 1906 house in Highland Park, Illinois, but in Nov. 2015 they accepted a purchase offer from prospective buyers who plan to preserve it, according to the house’s listing agent. After featuring the house on Wright on the Market and promoting its availability the Conservancy worked closely with two preservation-minded buyers who ultimately were not able to close deals with the seller.

The sellers had applied for a demolition permit in July, but contrary to what was published in the Tribune on Dec. 16, no demo permit had been approved. The ordinance provides for a 365-day delay for demolition of any potential historic structure that meets certain criteria. The sellers had requested that the Highland Park Historic Preservation Commission waive the delay period so that the permit could be granted immediately. Both the Conservancy and Landmarks Illinois had submitted strong letters and Conservancy Executive Director Janet Halstead attended the Commission meeting on Oct. 8 to urge the Commission not to waive or shorten the delay in order to allow maximum time for a new owner to step forward. At its meeting on Oct. 8 the Commission declined to waive the delay period and subsequently the sellers appealed the Commission’s decision to the Highland Park City Council. The demo permit application and its related 365-day delay were still pending when the house was sold.

The Conservancy also delayed nominating the house for landmark status (a nomination that was not supported by the house’s owners twice in the past) to avoid complicating a potential sale and because the city has rarely landmarked a house without the owners’ consent. The landmarking option, which if successful would make demolition much less likely but would also require city approval of modifications by a future buyer, is still very much on the table if the demolition permit application is not withdrawn.

The house, built for George Millard and his wife Alice (who later commissioned Wright’s 1923 concrete-block house La Miniatura in Pasadena, California) sits on a wooded corner lot and features an open floor plan with 68 art glass windows and a restored open-air veranda.
Restoration architect and Conservancy board member John Thorpe had worked on the house with the prior owners and, as a friend of the house prior to the current sale, had kept tabs on the status and advised and encouraged two earlier prospective buyers during the long marketing period. The Conservancy and Landmarks Illinois also were monitoring the status of the house very closely in the last six months and were in direct contact with the Highland Park Historic Preservation Commission.

The Conservancy is in contact with the new owners, who saved another historic house in Highland Park several years ago, and maintains hope that the demolition permit will be formally withdrawn.

Posted on December 18, 2015

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