The chief operating officer of a home renovation company that bought North Riverside’s oldest single-family home admits that he considered tearing it down, but instead chose to do a complete renovation that will more or less maintain the home’s vintage look, at least from the outside.
Brian Welch’s company, Arnold Wesley LLC, purchased the one-story cottage at 8019 26th St. in August 2013 for $80,000 from the estate of James C. Brosseau, whose family had owned the property since prior to North Riverside’s incorporation.
He calls it the “humpty dumpty house” because it was in such poor shape when the company bought it that it had to be put back together piece by piece.
“When we bought it, I kind of got scared and considered tearing it down,” said Welch, whose company has been particularly active in Brookfield recently.
But there were aspects of the property that were clearly intriguing, not the least of which was the fact that the house sits on a 300-foot deep lot. The home is set back far from the street, giving the appearance that all of the yard area is in front. However, behind the home, there’s another 100 feet of backyard.
The home’s position on the lot was determined years after it was built in 1903 by Brosseau’s grandfather, Oscar. At that time, 26th Street was located south of its present position. The street was moved in 1925.
But the house itself had been mainly vacant for years and the building wasn’t in the strongest structural shape. Its original foundation was stone blocks set directly on top of clay. The east wall was bowing and water seeping from the roof had caused additional damage. There are more than a dozen layers of shingles on the roof.
So what was the attraction to the home?
“I just have a different perspective on real estate,” said Welch.
“I’m not seeing this,” he said, gesturing toward the building. “I’m seeing the finished product.”
When the renovation is complete, hopefully sometime in April, said Welch, it will maintain its cottage appearance from the street, complete with the columned front porch. In place of the faux brick asphalt shingle siding, it’ll have new vinyl siding. The home will also have a new rear deck and a finished basement, made possible by jacking up the house, digging a new foundation and pouring new concrete.
The building, which may be from a Sears kit home, is also being strengthened structurally. A steel beam and columns in the basement now support the main floor and the exterior walls are being rebuilt.
Arnold Wesley’s website lists the finished home at $374,900. Welch says he’s already had a serious offer on the property. This will be the second home the company has renovated in North Riverside. Last year, the company rehabbed and sold a home in the 2500 block of Park Avenue.
At one time all of the land between 26th and 27th streets from Desplaines Avenue to the river were owned by the Riverside Holiness Association, which organized summer religious retreats for its members there.
James Brosseau, in an interview with the Landmark in 2006, said the organization, of which his family was a member, established their settlement in what would become North Riverside around 1890.
They built a two-story retreat building at what would be the corner of 27th Street and Desplaines Avenue (it’s now a four-unit condo building). Oscar Brosseau lived on the second floor of that building while he was building his home — which would become the first permanent single-family house in North Riverside — in 1903.
The Brosseau family maintained ownership of the property for the next 110 years. After the death of James Brosseau in November 2012, the home was placed on the market. The North Riverside Historical Society at one time expressed interest in acquiring the home, but that plan never came to fruition.