The repair and restoration of the Coonley Coach House, originally part of the landmark Frank Lloyd Wright designed Avery Coonley Estate in Riverside is well underway under the supervision of the coach house’s new owner, Dean Eastman.
Eastman purchased the home in September after the Cook County Office of the Public Guardian had sought to replace the leaking original red clay tile original roof with an asphalt shingle roof. The Public Guardian was acting on behalf of the home’s previous owner Carolyn Howlett, who lived lived in the building from 1954 until her death on Dec. 17, 2005.
In a recent interview Eastman estimated that he is about halfway through repairing the roof by replacing defective clay tiles.
“We’ve been hampered by the coldest winter in recent years,” Eastman said last month in a telephone interview.
A tarp is still on the roof to protect it. Eastman will be replacing the existing flat roofs on the coach house which are not original and are architecturally incorrect, Eastman said. He added that he plans to restore the coach house to its original appearance while making it a comfortable residence for the 21st Century.
Eastman enjoys the challenge of restoration and repair. He painstakingly restored his part of the Coonley Estate over a four-year period and won the 2004 Wright Spirit Award of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy for his efforts.
“I’m getting satisfaction out of seeing it restored,” Eastman said. “It’s kind of a hobby of mine.”
Eastman is a professor of physics at the University of Chicago. He previously was the director of the Argonne National Laboratory and was a research scientist at IBM for 33 years.
He is also a self-taught architect, prepares his own architectural plans and does his own architectural drawings.
The Riverside Preservation Commission on Dec. 8, 2005 unanimously approved Eastman’s application for a certificate of appropriateness that allows him to proceed with his plans.
“We’re very happy,” said Preservation Commission Chairman Charles Pipal. “He’s very thorough. He’s making it serviceable, and making it fit the original character of the estate.”
Eastman’s future plans call for restoring the original wall structure along Coonley Road and removing a garage door that was added long after the building was built. He will also restore the original art glass clerestory windows that are currently covered with plywood.
In addition, Eastman’s plans call for replacing the two flat roofs visible from Coonley Road with title roof sections matching the existing east wing. Plans approved by the Preservation Commission also show Eastman will restore the original entrance, using the original door. He also upgrade the heating system and install central air conditioning. In a part of coach house that Howlett does not use, Eastman plans on converting a garage and workshop into a new bedroom and bath with a new floor, trim and ceiling finish.
Most of the work will be completed next summer. Eastman declined to estimate how much money he has spent or will spend on his restoration work.
In the fall Eastman also removed a tree branch that had fallen on the roof and removed box elders and what he called “junk shrubs” that had overgrown a sunken garden on the coach house property.
Eastman and his wife Ella Mae, who own and live in the main building of the Coonley Estate on Bloomingbank Road, purchased the coach house for $350,000 on Sept. 22 according to Cook County Recorder of Deeds records.