Historical group hopes to preserve century-old Jefferson Park home that may be demolished
by BRIAN NADIG
A 105-year-old home in Jefferson Park where the first Mass for Saint Constance Parish was held could soon be demolished, although the Northwest Chicago Historical Society is hoping that the structure can be preserved due to its historical and architectural significance.
An application to demolish the Wachowski-Ray House at 5374 W. Lawrence Ave. is pending with the city Department of Buildings. Its architect, J.F. Knudsen, designed a wide variety of homes and small commercial buildings in the city, according to the historical society.
The house located across from Jefferson Memorial Park, 4822 N. Long Ave. Its exterior includes dark red brick and curved glass windows in the front and it cost $8,000 to build the home more than a century ago.
The house is not listed on the Chicago Historic Resources Survey, but earlier this year city planning officials identified the home as a candidate for a potential residential landmark district, which would include several prominent Jefferson Park homes, historical society researcher Frank Suerth said.
According to county records, the property was sold on Aug. 7 to PFH Homes Inc., which could not be reached for comment. The property’s B3-2 zoning would allow for a mixed-use building with up to nine residential units to be built on the 9,500-square-foot parcel, but there are reports that a zoning relief may be sought for the site’s redevelopment.
The home’s first occupants, Valentine and Sophie Wachowski, were one of about 90 families which in 1916 decided to separate from the Our Lady of Victory Parish and form a new parish which would focus on the needs of the area’s growing Polish population.
In addition, “Val” Wachowski, who died in 1927, was a successful grocery store owner and served as the treasurer of the Jefferson Park Building and Loan Association.
Subsequent owners included attorney Olaf Ray and Dr. Joseph Bux Jr., who had his medical practice at the house and served as president of the Jefferson Park Chamber of Commerce.
“In March of 1918, along with a state senator and local aldermen, (Ray) delivered an address at a mass meeting at the Jefferson Park Masonic Temple. Their goal was to encourage the masses to demand that the ‘L’ be extended to Jefferson Park from Logan Square to increase business and growth in the area. While these leaders had an impressive idea, the community would not see their demand come to fruition for over 50 years,” society president Susanna Ernst wrote in one of the group’s 2015 newsletters.
In the early 1930s, Ray donated a Viking ship painting to the Jefferson Park fieldhouse, where the artwork is still today. Ray’s lifelong correspondence and other documents were donated to the Norwegian-American Historical Association in Minnesota, according to the society.