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Ravinia Neighbors Association Blog

Welcome to RNA’s Blog Page which features articles from Ravinia writers. Although articles are chosen in accordance with topics we feel are relevant to Ravinia and of possible interest to our readers, RNA does not necessarily endorse the opinions put forth in the blog posts. If you would like to comment on any articles put forth in the blogs, please use the comment box that follows each post.

A New Look for an Old House

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

By Lynne Jungman

The Highland Park Historical Preservation Commission selected the house at 501 Burton Avenue for its prestigious award, " best restoration" of an existing home in 2011. Many Ravinia neighbors had watched its transformation from drab to delightful. It presents now an inviting, picture-postcard loveliness.

There is a back story to 501 Burton of historical interest: beginning in 1908, Sears, Roebuck offered would-be homeowners the chance to build their own homes. Sears being Sears produced a catalogue featuring various designs and plans for construction that were available for mail order. All parts needed for the selected model, down to the last shingle, were sent by rail for pick up by the eager homeowner. Tradesmen then went to work assembling -- which took 40 percent less time than building a home in the conventional way.

Sears "Modern Home Catalogue" enticed buyers for the next 30 years and its models dotted the American landscape. The one chosen by the original owner in Ravinia in 1926 was called the "Columbine." Its princely sum was $2,039, nails included, and of course, financing provided by Sears if desired. The Columbine was described as "a unique creation in American architecture and always received praise wherever it was built."

Yet, can't most things be improved upon with creative ingenuity? Enter architect Michael Kollman and builder Doug Kasmer (See their contact information at the end of this article.) With respect for the original lines, but adding more panache, detail and space, as well as tasteful landscaping, 501 Burton came from a bit dog-eared to "best in show."

Now there are new residents as of August of last year. According to the owner, Justin Kee, he and his wife Kim had been looking for awhile, driving around various neighborhoods in Highland Park, before spotting the nearly completed house at 501 Burton. The couple somewhat knew what they wanted, having lived in a 1919 year old house on Ridgewood in Highland Park. The Burton house caught their eye. They were impressed and inquired further with its architect. Justin also was familiar with Doug Kasmer's work. Both lived on Ridgewood and Justin admires the builder's arts and crafts approach.

The Kee family likes porches where one can sit out in the summer and get to know their neighbors. The nearby park is an attraction for their 5-year-old twins, and the walkability of Ravinia is a definite plus, along with the proximity of Metra service. The new interior with its four bedrooms and room for office space is perfect for them. Justin and his wife did not need or want to change a thing, even the color scheme -- and haven't since.

The family has happily settled in their home and the twins are looking forward to kindergarten next year at Ravinia School. Ravinia suits them just fine! Welcome.

  1. Michael Kollman, AIA.Leed AP, Wexler/Kollman, 16595 Easton Ave.. Prairie View, IL 60069; Michael also supplied historical information for this article.
  2. Doug Kasmer, Ravinia Renovations, Highland Park, IL 60035.