Berwyn’s bungalows achieving icon status

BERWYN – Berwyn has long prided itself on its efforts to preserve a symbol of what best represents Berwyn as a unique community – the iconic Berwyn bungalow. Now, the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and the National Park Service has taken notice, too.

Berwyn will receive $17,500 toward a $25,000 project to survey, research and hold a public meeting to prepare for nominating the city’s bungalow residential district for the National Register of Historic Places. The federal grants pay up to 70 percent of a project’s costs.

The remainder is made up from local funds, collected by City of Homes, Inc., a nonprofit corporation that describes itself as “dedicated to promoting the preservation, redevelopment, adaptive reuse and continued viability of Berwyn’s historic housing stock and in making Berwyn the primary destination in the Chicago area for families and individuals seeking an affordable, walkable, location-efficient and transit orientated community.”

The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency’s State Historic Preservation Office administers the grant program on behalf of the National Park Service. The money is earmarked for two-year projects related to public education, heritage publications, development of local preservation programs and adding sites to the National Register of Historic Places.

Only communities that have been certified as having strong preservation ordinances and policies are eligible for the grants. 

On Dec. 10, 2013, the Berwyn City Council designted the historic Dvorak House, 6945 Riverside Drive, as a city landmark. The house, built in 1928, was designed by architect Charles Vedra and is considered one of the city’s best examples of historic bungalow architecture.

The owner of the house, Loretta Kasparas, said that as each day goes by she loves the house even more.

“It’s wonderful and every day I’m in this house I like it better,” she said. “It’s really a pleasure to live in a finely built house.

“It’s well deserved,” she added, about being singled out for historical status.

Kasparas purchased the house with her mother, Antonia Janys, in 1988.

The Dvorak House has been twice featured on the Berwyn Historical Society’s annual bungalow tour. It was also featured in the summer 2007 issue of American Bungalow magazine.

Berwyn, Belleville and Highland Park, along with McHenry and Will counties, will be receiving financial help in identifying and preserving historic resources.

City of Homes president Nasri AbiMansour said the grant will allow the organization to hire a consultant to survey and research the Berwyn area, then submit an application for placement on the National Register.

“Berwyn will have its first district on the National Register,” AbiMansour said. “This will be one of the largest bungalow districts in the country.”

The CoHo-initiated project seeks to nominate the area roughly between Cermak Road, 26th Street, Harlem Avenue and Ridgeland Avenue to the National Register of Historic Places. The City and CoHo anticipate that the district, with over 1,400 homes, will become one of the largest Bungalow districts on the National Register. The grant will help cover the costs of the historical research required for the national register nomination.