Updated 1/17/12 1:10 p.m.
The owner of a Brookfield home that collapsed while being renovated last October says he plans on rebuilding the house and keeping its historic “castle” character intact.
Robert Alcala told the Landmark on Wednesday that he hopes construction on the home at 4126 Raymond Ave. will be complete by late April or early May, now that work has begun.
“I look forward to having my family move in there as soon as possible,” said Alcala.
On Jan. 10, a crane was onsite removing the roof, which had collapsed into the main living area of the home. The south and east walls have also been shored up by timbers, while debris was cleared from the north wall, which had been blown out in the collapse.
According to Alcala, the cause of the collapse stemmed from the way the interior demolition was being carried out by his previous general contractor. The walls had not been shored up and many layers of shingles covering the roof was too much weight for the structure to bear, he said.
“There was so much weight, when they did not shore up the walls, it came tumbling down,” said Alcala, who added that his insurance company was likely seeking a legal claim against the previous contractor.
Since the collapse, Alcala has hired St. Charles-based Inviso Services, which specializes in restoring properties damaged in disasters – usually natural disasters – to serve as his engineering firm.
In October 2011, Alcala told the Landmark he wanted to remove the second story of the home and replace it with an addition that would contain three bedrooms and a bathroom.
Building department records showed that the construction of the new second story would require new support columns in the basement. But work never progressed that far. Just a little more than a week after workers started interior demolition, the roof simply collapsed. No one was in the home at the time of the collapse, which appears to have happened during the overnight hours of Oct. 4 and 5.
Once the home was renovated, Alcala’s plan was to have his family move into the main home, while other family members would move into a coach house, a legal non-conforming structure which is located at the rear of the property.
The collapse of the main house threw the future existence of the coach house into doubt. If the main house had to be completely demolished, the coach house would have had to go, too, to comply with the village’s zoning laws.
However, Alcala said that at least 51 percent of the original house was able to be saved. As a result, the coach house will stay. In any case, Alcala said, one of the main reasons he bought the home was because of its castle-like charm.
“The castle look really captured our hearts when we found the property,” said Alcala. “We were able to preserve a lot of the stone, because we were not going to be able to find that anywhere.”
The house at 4126 Raymond Ave. was built around 1900 by local builder Conrad Schneider, who specialized in the boulder-faced homes that dot the Congress Park neighborhood of Brookfield.
In fact, it was Schneider’s own home. He ran his building business out of the coach house, wrote Brookfield historian Chris Stach in a 2005 Landmark article on the builder. There are more than 25 other boulder homes in Congress Park, mostly on Raymond and Deyo avenues.
Because there are a number of similar homes in the area, there was some concern initially that the design of the castle homes might have led to the collapse. However, the director of Brookfield’s Department of Building and Planning, Keith Sbiral, said that does not appear to be the case.
Sbiral indicated that part of the problem could have been unpermitted interior remodeling done at the home through the decades.
“By [Alcala’s] indication, it was the demo being done, not the construction of the house itself,” Sbiral said. “Originally there was a concern, because there are other homes with the same type of construction. We don’t believe that to be the case.”@