Mid-Century Modern Fans: Two, Unique Edward Dart Homes for Sale in Suburbs Need Caring New Owners

(Photo: Wegner House circa 1963. Courtesy Charles Wegner)

April 9, 2019
By Lisa DiChiera & Matt Seymour


Two significant homes built in 1962 and designed by prolific Chicago architect Edward Dart are currently for sale in Chicago suburbs and need sensitive buyers who will appreciate and celebrate their unique designs.

Dart is perhaps best known for designing Chicago’s Water Tower Place, but also designed approximately 51 modernist, custom homes in the Chicago area during his independent career throughout the 1950s and 1970s. The two Dart-designed homes currently on the market – the Charles Wegner House in Oak Brook and the Richard Henrich House in Barrington Hills – are unprotected from demolition. With another Dart home in Glencoe – the Barry Crown House built in 1963 – currently awaiting demolition, the future of these homes could be in jeopardy if the right buyer does not come forward. The homes have been lovingly maintained and enjoyed by their owners who hope to pass on the joy and experience of living in an Edward Dart design.

“The home is still owned by our family, and we hope that a buyer can be found who appreciates the beauty and importance of Ed Dart’s work,” Charles Wegner, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wegner and owner of the Oak Brook home, told Landmarks Illinois. “Our family would like to preserve this beautiful home, and pass it along to a new and caring owner.”

The Challenge with Finding Proper Owners of Dart’s Unique Homes

Dart was born in 1922 in New Orleans and died suddenly at age 53. While studying at Yale, he developed his unique design style that focused on the incorporation of a building to its site, natural materials and free-flowing spaces. No two Dart-designed houses are the same, but they all incorporate materials like common brick, wood and stone, inside and out.  The majority of the residences are situated carefully on their lots to allow the inhabitants to interact with nature through large windows and terraces.  Flat roofs are most prevalent in his designs, but Dart also used gable and shed roofs on several residences, which coincide with distinct interior spaces.

Landmarks Illinois has advocated for mid-century modern homes, such as those designed by Dart, for years. In 2015, LI included “Mid-Century Modern Homes” on the Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois, bringing attention to the staggering number of mid-century modern houses up for sale and vulnerable as tear-downs, especially in the Chicagoland area.

The Most Endangered listing also noted the challenge of marketing these unique homes built from the 1940s-1970s. Often, these homes contain open floor plans, small kitchens, seemingly outdated materials and features like windowless or full-glass walls that lead many realtors to view them as less desirable and list them for their land value. Greater understanding of their design qualities, how to best identify and market them and use of available incentives for their rehabilitation will help these misunderstood gems to be sold to sympathetic, new owners.

Read more about the two Dart homes currently for sale below.

(Photo Courtesy of Father Komechak)

Charles Wegner House in Oak Brook

A notable residence from Dart’s career, this 1962 home was designed for the Charles Wegner family in Oak Brook. The home is a large residence with a walk-out lower level and located on a private road set on a gently sloping lot overlooking a small creek. Brick piers support the hut-like, wood-shingled roof, and there is a detached three-car garage that is built in the same style as the house.

With its expansive rear porch, the Wegner House looks like a modern interpretation of a southern plantation house on the rear elevation, which could be a nod to Dart’s southern roots.The Wegner family owned the Jel-Sert company, and Dart also designed the company building in 1961. The building was later demolished in 2013.

Although the interior of this home has been redecorated, Dart’s use of spaces that beautifully flow together is evident. The interior still features the original central skylight, a floating balcony and vaulted ceilings covered in wood.

(Photo: Wegner House circa 1963. Courtesy of Charles Wegner)

“In 1960, my parents commissioned a house by Mr. Dart to be located in the newly designed suburb of Oak Brook. It was completed in 1962, and was the 10th home to be built in the very exclusive Ginger Creek area of Oak Brook,” Charles Wegner, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wegner, told Landmarks Illinois. “My parents were personal friends of the founder of Oak Brook, Paul Butler, and chose the most beautiful lot in Ginger Creek on which to build their family home. All of the working drawings, original hand sketches by Dart, along with the final, signed architectural drawings are preserved and accompany the purchase of the home.

See this house listing here.

Richard Henrich House in Barrington Hills   

In 1962, Dart designed the Richard Henrich House in Barrington Hills, which is strategically perched atop a wooded hill overlooking a lake. The three-story residence is clad completely in Chicago common brick, and it has floor-to-ceiling windows throughout. Verticality is stressed and can be seen in the brick piers, yet there is a strong horizontal presence in the flat roof surfaces at different levels.

The interior of the house has a series of spaces that flow seamlessly between one another, and like the exterior, verticality and horizontality are stressed. For example, the stairway to the upper levels are open and leads to catwalks that are also open to the space below.  A 1965 Progressive Architecture article entitled “Play of Volumes” commented on the interior spaces of the Henrich House: “They are, however, kept in check by strong visual axes, which give a sense of order and discipline.” Interior floors are covered in slate and wood, and walls are clad in brick and plaster. The current owner retained preservation architects Johnson, Lasky, Kindelin to oversee restoration of the home.

“I love the architecture of the house; it looks modern even after 50 years and the many windows offer beautiful views of the outdoor and lake,” the current owner told Landmarks Illinois. “The architect’s fondness for churches has led him to add colored glass bricks on the west side and capture the last ray of sun in the afternoon and bring them into the house. The house also has a study on the third floor that we call the ‘tree house’ because it offers direct views onto the trees just outside the window allowing to see many kinds of migratory birds.”

See this house listing here.

About the authors:

Matthew Seymour is author of Edward Dart: Preserving the Works of a Mid-Century Architect (Master’s Thesis, 2013, School of the Art Institute of Chicago). He is also a former LI intern.

Lisa DiChiera is Director of Advocacy at Landmarks Illinois and can be reached at LDiChiera@landmarks.org.

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