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Resident fights to preserve Elmhurst's oldest home

Published: Friday, Aug. 15, 2014 10:17 a.m. CST
Caption
(Photo provided by Elmhurst Historical Museum)
Elmhurst's oldest home, Hill Cottage, at 413 S. York St., is for sale, and some Elmhurst history buffs want to make sure the building is preserved. (Photo provided by Elmhurst Historical Museum)

ELMHURST – Vince Spaeth has a passion for Elmhurst history, so when he saw Elmhurst's oldest home is for sale, he wanted to preserve it.

"There's only a few of these coach houses left in Elmhurst," Spaeth said.

Hill Cottage, a 3,940-square-foot home now sits at 413 S. York St. but it originally served as a tavern, hotel and rest stop for a stagecoach route that went from Chicago to the Fox River Valley. It was built in the early 1840s.

It previously stood on the north side of St. Charles Road at Cottage Hill Avenue and also housed the community's first post office before becoming a private home.

"I really love the history and I really dig deep into it," said Spaeth, a current park board commissioner and former Elmhurst Historical Museum board member.

The six-bedroom, 3.5-bathroom home with a wraparound porch and pool is listed for $750,000. It was originally listed for $950,000 in February.

"Hopefully it can continue to be a residential home," Spaeth said.

He's worried a developer might buy the property and demolish the historic building to use the 0.69 acre property for new homes.

Requests to city officials and the park board left Spaeth on his own to preserve Hill Cottage.

"We believe the property's best use remains as a single family home. We're hopeful that somebody will buy it and enjoy it as such," Elmhurst Historical Museum Director Brian Bergheger said in an email on behalf of the city.

Spaeth is now looking for private investors and community members to help buy and rehab the house.

"I'd like to have it rehabbed and put on the Elmhurst historic preservation list," said Spaeth, who previously spent two years restoring a coach house on Cottage Hill Avenue behind his home on Prospect Avenue.

Elmhurst's historic preservation ordinance allows for homes to be designated as landmarks, but only with the property owner's consent.

Bergheger said over the phone he would like to have Hill Cottage designated as a landmark.

"I'm certainly an advocate for it's preservation," said Bergheger, adding he'd be happy to assist any potential buyer who may want to preserve the house as a home or a nonprofit site.

The uncertainty surrounding Hill Cottage worries Spaeth. He realizes the home could stay on the market for several months or a buyer could make an offer any day.

Spaeth would like the city to have a plan for historic homes like the 19th century stagecoach stop.

"I mean we're losing houses all over town," Spaeth said. "We should have some goal of targeted houses that we want to save."

He said he respects that the city is tasked with many other issues and understands preservation efforts need to come from elsewhere, if necessary.

"That tells the rest of the community that we need to get together and do something," Spaeth said.

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Know more

Anyone interested in contributing to Hill Cottage preservation efforts can contact Vince Spaeth at 630-244-6430.

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