IP - Norwood Park In the News
Landmark Destroyed: The Henry Rincker House
November 4, 2011
By: John R. Schmidt

For decades into the 1970s, the Lilac Farm grocery store stood near the southwest corner of Milwaukee and Devon. Customers rarely gave a thought to the old frame farm house behind the store. Neighborhood kids knew it only as "the haunted house."
Then, in 1978, a developer bought the 5.2 acres of land that included Lilac Farm, the farm house, and a few other buildings. He planned on replacing everything with a strip mall and some condos.

Now the old farm house attracted some more attention. It seemed the structure had been built by a German baker named Henry Rincker as long ago as 1851, when Milwaukee Avenue was still a wood-plank toll road. Besides being the earliest surviving example of Chicago balloon-frame construction, the Rincker House was also the second-oldest building in the city!
In 1979 the city council approved landmark status for the house. The developer opposed the action and sought a demolition permit. A compromise was reached, with the developer agreeing to move the Rincker House to another location on the property.
The house was still standing on its original site in February 1980, when vandals set it on fire. Despite heavy damage, firefighters saved most of the building. But the worst was yet to come.
Bright and early on the morning of August 25, 1980 a bulldozer appeared on the property and leveled the Rincker House.

What about "landmark preservation?" The wrecking company had gotten a permit to knock down a structure at 6384 North Milwaukee Avenue, the lot where the Rincker House stood. But the house's official address was listed as 6366. When the demo permit was issued for 6384, the city computer had not recognized a building with protected status.
What about the large signs on the Rincker House that proclaimed it a city landmark? The bulldozer operator said he hadn't seen them.
An investigation was launched. Lawsuits were filed. A prominent state senator was brought to trial for allegedly trying to fix the case--and acquitted. Meanwhile, little more than a mile from the Rincker site, the Mark Noble farm house was confirmed as Chicago's oldest building, dating from 1833. That took some of the sting out of the demolition "mistake."
A strip mall now occupies the southwest corner of Milwaukee and Devon. And the Henry Rincker House remains notorious as a Chicago City Landmark that was destroyed.

What Is the Oldest House in Chicago, Anyway?
The Clarke House, the oldest house in Chicago, prepares to celebrate its 175th year-it's just slightly older than the city itself. But the Noble-Seymour-Crippen House in Norwood Park is actually the oldest house in Chicago… unless it isn't.

Since 1836, the peripatetic Henry B. Clarke House (left) has settled in at three different addresses. The Noble-Seymour-Crippen House (right) comprises the original 1833 farmhouse on the south (far left) and the two-story 1868 Italianate addition on the north.

The AP had a brief yesterday about the Clarke House's impending 175th birthday. It's an august age for a house, dating to before the city's 1837 incorporation. But is it, as the brief claims, the oldest? It's not quite that simple, as Geoffrey Johnson pointed out in his 2007 piece, "Battle of the Ages."  The Noble-Seymour-Crippen house in Norwood Park is unquestionably older, but it comes down to a philosophical point: what do you mean by "the oldest house in Chicago"?

At the most basic level, there would appear to be no contest. Mark Noble, an English immigrant, built his farmhouse in 1833 (today the house is at 5624 North Newark Avenue). Henry B. Clarke, who had traveled to Illinois from New York State, didn't begin work on his house (in what would today be the 1600 block of South Michigan Avenue) until 1836, three years later. So how can there be any dispute? 

Members of the Clarke camp base their claim on several things. Neither house, when built, was within the limits of the town of Chicago, but the Clarke property became part of the city when it was incorporated in 1837. Chicago did not annex the village of Norwood Park until 1893. That 56-year difference is crucial-"I feel we got there first," says Maldonado-as are Clarke's and Noble's motives in building their homes. The rurally inclined Noble, says Maldonado, came to Illinois to establish a 150-acre farm. "The Clarkes were pioneers who had come here to help establish a city," he says.

If you look at the pictures, you might think that the Noble-Seymour-Crippen house sure doesn't look like a rural 1830s farm, and you'd be right: the Italianate addition was added later on. But as Johnson points out in the article, the Clarke House is now on its third location in the city-it was moved in 1872 when its owners got spooked by the Chicago fire, and after the City of Chicago took ownership it was moved to the Prairie Avenue Historic District, because why not, it was already moved once.
Details of new playground for Pleasant Point Park Revealed
May 1, 2013   Miscellaneous, Zoning   No comments

The construction of a new playground that will feature several natural elements is expected to be completed by late fall at Pleasant Point Park, 6801 W. Imlay St.
"It's definitely a different concept than we normally do," Chicago Park District project manager Randy DuRussel told a group of 15 residents at an April 25 community meeting held by Alderman Mary O'Connor (41st). The Pleasant Point Park Advisory Council has been lobbing for improvements at the park for several years.

Plans call for the elevation of the playground to vary, and a small plaza with picnic tables will be at its peak, nearly 6 feet from the ground. Access to the plaza will be from either a stone-like staircase or a handicapped-accessible landscaped pathway. The park also will have at least one slide that will run down an embankment in the center of the playlot and a dome-shaped apparatus that will have climbing nets and ladders. The playground also will feature an interactive bridge, mushroom-shaped hopping devices, and a large concrete bench that will be designed in the shape of tree branches with features designed to deter use by skateboarders.

The $550,000 cost of the project is being funded through unused private donations which were made to help cover the city's expense of hosting the NATO summit last summer, O'Connor said. Normally the park district relies on park groups to raise about one-third of the cost of a new playground.  Several parks in the city reportedly are receiving NATO funds. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has said that he plans to use the approximately $10 million in unused donations for "NATO legacy" projects.  According to residents, the existing playground was built in the 1980s, with some minor improvements made over the years. The park district had a design for a new playground at the park created about 6 years ago, but the project was never funded, DuRussel said.  Residents at the meeting asked if additional lighting could be installed near the playground and if swings for tots could be added to the project. The park has a swing set that has belt seats for tots, but tentative plans call for the existing swings to be replaced by a multi-user tire swing.

The park's water feature will feature jet sprays, and the water will flow down an embankment, allowing the creation of a dam. The existing water feature in the park has a continuous spray, and the new one will be activated by a pedal and will automatically turn itself off after a period of time.  The playground surface is covered by wood chips, but plans call for a rubberized surface to be installed under any raised equipment, DuRussel said. He said that measures are being taken to preserve the trees in the park and that new planter boxes will be installed for shrubs and perennials.  The nearly 2-acre park, which is at the southwest corner of Imlay and Newcastle Avenue, was constructed about 80 years ago, and it has basketball court . In 1999 the park district renamed the park in honor of the former Pleasant Point Improvement Association,
but several residents at the meeting said that it is more commonly referred to by its previous name of Imlay Park.
After 50 years, Pickwick Restaurant to close

An Uptown Park Ridge staple for more than five decades is about to close its doors.

The Pickwick Restaurant, anchoring the landmark Pickwick Theatre building at the corner of Prospect Avenue and Northwest Highway since the 1960s, is set to serve up its last patty melts, hot turkey sandwiches, burgers and ice cream sundaes on Dec. 7.

A new restaurant — with a brand new name — will open in its place next spring, according to Dino Vlahakis, co-owner of the building.

“The Pickwick Restaurant was a magnificent anchor in Park Ridge,” Vlahakis said. “I think anyone who has grown up in Park Ridge has, at one point or another, eaten there. But now it’s time for them to move on.”

Restaurant owner George Paziotopoulos declined to comment, but employees confirmed that the restaurant will close its doors next month.

Paziotopoulos has leased the space on a month-by-month basis for eight years and declined to enter into a longer-term lease, Vlahakis said. Vlahakis recently increased the rent to what it was in 2008 before he lowered it due to economic conditions, he said.

“I told him I’d have to find someone who would sign a lease,” Vlahakis said. “And I did.”

Paziotopoulos is the third owner of the Pickwick Restaurant, according to Vlahakis, whose family bought the building and theater in 1967.

In 2003 the restaurant received national publicity when television journalist Barbara Walters sat down with Park Ridge native and then-U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton for a lunch interview in one of the Pickwick’s booths.

The interview, part of a promotional tour for Clinton’s memoir “Living History,” led the Pickwick Restaurant to create “the Hillary burger,” topped with olives, in the former first lady’s honor.

While growing up in Park Ridge, Clinton often ate at the Pickwick after attending movies at the theater next door.

For some, the restaurant’s look and feel is a throwback to another era, and Vlahakis acknowledged that it hasn’t changed much over the decades.

That’s why, he believes, it’s time for something new, although he declined to share additional information about the next tenant or who will be running the restaurant, citing a request from the proprietor. He did say that the new operator is a professional in the restaurant business.

“We’re talking about a real good restaurant,” he said of the next tenant, which will also serve American-style fare. “This will be the place to go in Park Ridge.”

In October, restaurateur Tim Griffin spoke to the city’s Historic Preservation Commission about his plans to open a new food establishment in the current Pickwick Restaurant space.

Employees at nearby Hill’s Hallmark expressed surprise upon learning of the pending closure, though others had heard rumors.

“It’s not going to be the same,” said Kristie Glascock. “It was a place to get regular American food, like a turkey sandwich. That’s where you’d go for comfort food.”

Glascock grew up in Park Ridge and ate at the Pickwick as a child. She now takes her daughter, 13, there.

“It’s my daughter’s favorite place to go. She’s going to be crushed,” Glascock said.

Glascock and colleague Barb Blickhahn noted the “nostalgic” quality of the place and its connection to Park Ridge’s commercial past.

“It was like an institution of what was on Prospect Avenue,” Blickhahn said. “Besides the theater, I would say there’s nothing that has the same longevity.”

Elaina Bonacci of 2 Sisters Boutique noted that she often encounters Pickwick Restaurant employees in the common basement their businesses share.

“We’re going to miss them,” she said. “George is a good guy.”

But Bonacci said she is eager to welcome the new restaurant that will replace the Park Ridge institution.

“It will be exciting when the new people come in,” she said.