TL;DR: 103-year old, perfectly habitable home damned to be redeveloped.
History: This gorgeous two-story home on Route 12 dates back to 1912. According to real estate records: it was remodeled in 1940 with a couple of sunrooms. The home was clearly well-maintained right to the very end; and as far as I can tell an old lady probably lived her final days, here. Judging from the spices and foodstuff left behind, I’d pinpoint abandonment around 2011-2012 or so.
In October 2015 the property, along with a neighboring home of less-grandeur, was sold to commercial developers – Twelve House valued at over $600k. Already surrounded by brand-new housing, a Kohl’s, and a gas station: I’m afraid you and I both know where this is going…
Explore: I was well aware of the adjacent house, as I passed it daily going to work; but never knew this one existed until all the surrounding trees got the Mr. T-treatment earlier this month. I wasn’t going to bother with the other place before seeing this one, but once I did I immediately hit the brakes and scoped them both out – I actually had my camera and zoom lens handy for something unrelated.
Returning that same night, I did a quick walkthrough of the neighboring house; finding nothing really worth scavenging or coming back to shoot, I moved next door and did the same with differing sentiments. Unable to light paint due to highway and neighborhood proximity: I settled for a lone, seventeen-minute exposure of the exterior, and called it a night, planning to return the coming Sunday.
I left for work early that Sunday, and made it back inside without issue despite the typically-heavy road traffic. The front door was barricaded by crap, but with many of the windows removed by contractors, you had your pick of the POE litter, here. A packet with photographs of the house was later found, with the windows to-be removed highlighted. Why the original windows were pulled beats me, the glass seemed to be the only part of the structure saved, as all the wood frames could be found piled-up in the living room.
The first floor featured two sunrooms – one having a bookcase still filled edge-to-edge with old encyclopedias, cookbooks, and novels; a living room with a bay window (minus any sort of glass) and huge brick fireplace, a combo kitchen-dining room, two additional rooms (one probably a second dining room, and the other a family room), a modest shitter, and a mudroom/laundry room in back that at some point was boarded-up.
The walls of the living room and staircase were covered by wood paneling at some point – pulling some of them away revealed a gaudy pink paint scheme with a fuchsia-colored embossed pattern that I’d find throughout other parts of the house, in varying colors. The fireplace was made of red brick, and big enough for even the most morbidly-obese Santa Claus to slide down.
The stairs to the second floor featured some ornate wood trim, and probably had nice railings at one point – the latter had already been chopped. Upstairs were three bedrooms, a large closet, and a rather-nice shower/crapper with sink fixtures that looked freshly-installed.
One bedroom had been converted into an exercise room with a treadmill; here, I found a 90s-vintage Sony Walkman with a Willie Nelson tape in it, still working – playing “On the Road Again” with the mere push of a button. I found the matching jewel case and grabbed them all; the Walkman now lives in my car.
The other two bedrooms were largely-empty, save for a mattress in one, and some 80s-vintage Zenith television sets that probably still worked. I also found much clothing left behind in the closets, with boxes from posh retailers like Marshall Field’s and Lord & Taylor strewn all around the house. Why people never thoroughly clean houses like this out, even just to dump it in the nearest donation dropoff, is mindblowing – as more than likely all this perfectly-good clothing will wind up in a landfill when all’s said and done.
I didn’t shoot the basement for lack of light and too much clutter, but down there I found a complete workshop with tools and hardware, and enough canned food to survive a few weeks, were it still fresh. Out back was also a barn and trailer that I opted to pass on.
An hour before the start of my shift, I decided to check the other place out while I still had some daylight, but after setting up to try and find something to shoot, I noticed I was being watched by two separate, curious passersby, so I immediately packed and bailed in case someone in the adjacent neighborhood had maybe seen me crossing between the two houses.
The following week: a fence and construction trailer went up at the site; and at time of writing, excavators are on standby to bring her down – sending another century-old piece of Lake Zurich’s history and soul to landfill hell.
What a fucking waste.
Within 12 hours of publishing this article: excavators had leveled the home and whatever was left inside. Previously-omitted info, such as the location, has since been added.
April 14, 2016: this week it was finally revealed that yet another assisted living facility is under construction, here. With respect for the elderly, I will never understand Lake County’s recent persistence to build a cookie-cutter nursing home on every corner.