On the eve of Thursday’s meeting of the Riverside Preservation Commission, preservationists and the Cook County Public Guardian’s office are working to come up with a mutually agreeable solution for the leaking roof on the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Coonley Coach House in Riverside.
Last Saturday, representatives of the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois, the Frank Lloyd Wright Conservancy, the Public Guardian’s office, the Preservation Commission, the James Mansfield & Sons roofing company of Lyons and an engineering firm, Inspect Inc., that has done work on red clay roofs at the University of Chicago climbed ladders to examine the roof.
“The condition of the roof is that it leaks,” said Ted Smith a member of the Preservation Commission who was present Saturday. “There was no maintenance on the roof for many years.”
The examination showed that the gutters were in poor condition and caused some of the water damage to the home.
David Bahlman, the president of the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois was pleased to find that the house overall is in good shape.
“The house is in very good structural shape,” said Bahlman. “There’s been a lot of deferred maintenance.”
On Monday officials from the preservations groups; Charles Pipal, chairman of the Preservation Commission; and lawyers from the Public Guardian’s office met in downtown Chicago to discuss the situation.
“We sat down and discussed different ideas,” said Cook County Public Guardian Robert Harris. “The bottom line is that we’re trying to work together.”
The owner of the house, Carolyn Howlett, a 91-year-old widow, has lived in the landmark structure since 1953. Howlett is now a ward of the Cook County Public Guardian’s office which has asked the Preservation Commission to allow them to install an asphalt roof to replace the decaying Wright-designed red clay tile roof.
The asphalt roof, however, would not be historically accurate and, since the home is a local landmark, the Preservation Commission must approve a certificate of appropriateness before repairs can be made.
All the parties are awaiting a detailed examination of the roof by Mansfield Roofing. That is expected to occur today, according to Harris. Mansfield is expected to determine whether the existing roof can be repaired and, if so, what the cost of the repair would be. Informal estimates have placed restoration of the original roof at upwards of $200,000, an expense Howlett can’t afford.
Thursday the Preservation Commission is scheduled to vote on whether to issue a certificate of appropriateness for the Public Guardian’s office proposal to install an asphalt replacement roof, but it is not clear whether the members will have enough information to vote said Pipal.
But with summer coming to an end, the Public Guardian is pressing for a resolution of the issue as soon as possible.
“Our plan today is to proceed on Thursday,” Harris said Monday.
Pipal said he remains optimistic that a solution can be found where Howlett can remain in her home without surrendering attempts to restore the roof in a historically accurate manner..
“I’m still hopeful that everyone can come to an agreement and money can be found,” said Pipal.