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A vacant Brookfield home that had been under construction for a little more than a week collapsed during the early morning hours of Oct. 5, blowing out the north wall and sending the roof and second story crashing into the first floor.

Village officials aren’t sure what precipitated the collapse at 4126 Raymond Ave., but Keith Sbiral, the director of building and planning for the village of Brookfield said it is likely related to the demolition that was taking place inside the home.

No one was inside the home at the time of the collapse.

The home is owned by Chicago resident Robert Alcala, who bought the property in March for $107,500, according to property records. Building department records show that Alcala planned to remove the entire second story and replace it with a new second-story addition that would house three bedrooms and a bathroom. The building plans also show that new support columns would be placed in the basement.

“We’re hoping to resolve things ASAP as far as the cause of the collapse,” Alcala told the Landmark on Oct. 6. “Our hope was to refurbish the home and that’s still the idea.”

Alcala said he was renovating the home so his family could live there.

“It was for my family,” he said. “The plan was to fix the main house, then touch up and have other family members move back [into the coach house].”

Renovation of the historic home had begun only recently.

“The contractor has been in early stages of demo and clearly was not properly demoing the building,” Sbiral wrote in an email to village trustees on Oct. 5. “The owner will work with the Building and Planning Department to determine the most appropriate course of action moving forward.”

Village hall officials didn’t find out about the collapse until about 8:40 a.m. on Oct. 5, said Sbiral, when he got a call from a village plumbing inspector who happened to be driving past the home.

Neighbors said that they heard some sort of noise either late Tuesday or early Wednesday.

Carol Newberry, who lives a couple of doors north of the home, said she heard a “whooshing” sound at about 1 or 2 a.m.

“It wasn’t real loud, but it was loud enough that it kind woke me up,” said Newberry. “I thought it was something on Ogden Avenue. I didn’t even think about the house.”

Meanwhile, Phil Cihlar, who lives immediately south of the home, said he “heard something little” at about 11 p.m. Tuesday night.

“It was nothing really major, but it was certainly a noise I wasn’t accustomed to,” Cihlar said.

Another neighbor said he heard “a loud thud” at about 2 a.m., according to Brookfield police.

Sbiral said that the collapse may have happened in stages overnight.

“The full collapse apparently happened [Wednesday] morning with nobody in the premises and nobody injured at this time.”

When village officials arrived on the scene, workers from the remodeling company were reportedly picking through the rubble. The village halted that action, issued a stop work order and has ordered the building owner to get a structural engineer to assess the condition of the building.

A sign in a front window of the home identifies the company doing the renovation as First Class Builders and Remodelers, whose address is registered to a single-family home in the Belmont Cragin neighborhood of Chicago.

A call to the number listed on the sign was answered by a woman who confirmed it was the number for the building company and said her husband would return the Landmark’s call. The call was not returned.

Cihlar said the home had been vacant for three or four years after its longtime owner entered a nursing home.

About a week ago work crews arrived and began demolition, Cihlar said, carting wheelbarrows full of stone from the house.

The coach house, which is original to the property, was converted into a single-family residence at an unknown date in the past. According to neighbors, it is a three-bedroom home.

The coach house is a legal non-conforming structure, according to Brookfield’s residential zoning code. However, if Alcala is forced to demolish the main home, the future of the coach house could be in question. Typically, if the main house on a property is destroyed and must be demolished and rebuilt, the property must be brought into conformity.

“From a zoning perspective, that’s a pretty typical response,” said Sbiral. “Upon these types of catastrophic events, you have to come into conformity.”


Collapsed home part of Congress Park history

The house at 4126 Raymond Ave. in Brookfield isn’t just any old home. It is one of the Congress Park neighborhood’s distinctive “castles” built of boulders and dating from the early part of the 20th century.

In fact, according to Brookfield historian Chris Stach, that very house was where the man responsible for building all those Congress Park castles lived.

The home was built and owned by Conrad Schneider, wrote Stach in a Landmark article on Sept. 7, 2005. Schneider ran his building business out of the boulder coach house, which still stands at the back of the property.

A prolific builder in Congress Park, LaGrange and other nearby communities, Schneider moved to the neighborhood in 1895 when it was still called West Grossdale.

He built the home at 4172 DuBois Blvd. for John W. Gross, brother of Brookfield’s founder, Samuel Eberly Gross, and at least 26 other boulder homes, including his own, in the Congress Park neighborhood, mostly on Deyo and Raymond avenues.

Schneider, who died in 1922, also built the original East School (known today as Congress Park School) at Shields and Raymond in 1900. The architect for the school was John Neal Tilton, who also designed Lyons Township High School.

He was also the builder for the West Grossdale Opera House, which stood on the southwest corner of DuBois and Ogden.