July 11th, 2017 12:15 PM
There's very little of 209 S. Grove Ave. in Oak Park that hasn't been restored to reflect its Victorian origins, including the front porch, which was rebuilt to conform to the home's original 1887 design. | Courtesy of Historic Homes Realty
By Lacey Sikora
If 209 S. Grove Ave. looks slightly familiar, it may be because you have walked inside it during one of the many times the home has been open to the public.
Owner Kelly Kline, a past president of the Oak Park River Forest Historical Society and old home restorer extraordinaire, has opened her house to the public for many fundraisers, including the Parenthesis Kitchen Walk and numerous Historical Society tours.
While the 1887 Victorian home could stand as a standard bearer for historically accurate home restoration, that wasn't always the case.
Kline, who purchased the home in 1997 when her husband was transferred to the area from Delaware for a job, recalls the house was in need of quite a bit of work when they paid $335,000 for it.
"People on the block thought we were nuts to pay that," Kline said. "Basically, the house was a total dump."
She describes a 1970s decorating nightmare, complete with green shag carpeting throughout the house. The Klines had tackled an old-home restoration with their previous house in Delaware, and while Kline fell in love with Oak Park's architecture, she was hesitant at first to take on a complete house project.
Something about the house on Grove Avenue, with its corner location and turret, spoke to her and she jumped in with both feet.
In the age of the internet, sourcing vintage home pieces is as simple as entering key search terms into Google, but in the late 1990s Kline had to use more traditional methods of research.
Historical home-centered magazines like Old House Interiors, Old House Journal and Victorian Magazine provided inspiration as did her neighbors' homes. Kline recalls that acquaintances and friends in Oak Park provided a wealth of knowledge.
"The thing that's really great about Oak Park is that you meet people who know things about old houses and can recommend others like contractors or interior designers to help you along the way," Kline said. "When I was redoing the bathrooms, I dreamed of subway tile because some of the houses in Oak Park had their original subway tile. Now, I'd be able to find reproduction subway tile at Heritage Tile, but it didn't exist then."
In restoring the home's plumbing and light fixtures, Kline found that going antiquing in Pennsylvania provided a wealth of finds that suited the era of her home. Word of mouth also helped her restore some of the home's original features.
Kline recalls that the original dining room built-in had been ripped out and stored in the attic, but the leaded glass doors were missing. Her carpenter was prepared to recreate the doors according to the measurements of the cabinet when a neighbor told her that the John Toomey Gallery had the original doors. She purchased the doors, complete with their original hardware, and they were a perfect fit.
When the grandson of the original owner stopped by, he brought original photos of the house, which also aided her restoration efforts.
"It's kind of neat when you have an old house and you have photos of that house," Kline said. "We were fairly lucky that the original owner, John J. Jones, was well-known locally. He was president of Cicero Township before it became Oak Park. The family was very involved as we were redoing the house."
Guts and glory
There is very little of the house that Kline has not restored, all with an eye to returning and maintaining the home's original style. Using photographs in the historical society's archives as inspiration, she had the chimney rebuilt and redid the roof.
The porch was falling apart, and Kline determined that it had been modified in an 1895 remodel. She rebuilt it to the original 1887 design and also replaced approximately 75 percent of the exterior shingles with new cedar shingles.
On the interior, Kline noted that "all of the guts are new." Over a period of roughly 10 years, the plumbing, electric and HVAC systems were all updated, and the latest addition is a central air conditioner.
The floors were all refinished, and any woodwork that had been painted was stripped and restored. Kline worked tirelessly on the details, restoring stained-glass windows to match intact originals and choosing period-appropriate wallpapers.
One of her most striking projects was the kitchen remodel. Working with kitchen designer Jean Stoffer, Kline created a modern kitchen beneath the trappings of a Victorian design.
The cabinets look original to the home, but are newly created. Although you wouldn't know it, the room sports a dishwasher and Sub Zero refrigerator concealed behind cabinetry doors. Kline notes that the design was a finalist in a Sub Zero contest.
In the backyard, Kline created what she calls a botanical garden in the city. Working with a landscape designer to create pathways, a patio and a koi pond, the plantings are now mature, and Kline describes being in her backyard as feeling like you are in the country.
On the market
Kline and her husband are beginning a new chapter in their lives, and have listed the home with Historic Home Realty's Margaret McSheehy for $989,000. McSheehy notes that the Klines have gone above and beyond in their restoration of the home.
"It's important to note that this wasn't done for resale," McSheehy said. "Everything was done right, because they were doing it for themselves."
Kline says that she always knew that she and her husband were just stewards of the home for the next generation.
"This house will have a buyer who appreciates all of this," Kline said. "You don't see a lot of homes like this. Even though it's all old looking, it's all modernized underneath."
She also says the location can't be beat.
"We've counted how many restaurants we can walk to from here, and we can eat out at a different place for weeks," Kline said. "We're one block from the train, which is one of the things I love about Oak Park. You can partake of the city, and have everything you need close to home."
To view the full print edition of the Wednesday Journal 2017 Answer Book, please click here.
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