7100 N. Ridge Boulevard
First Owner: F.O. Weydell
This home was included in the 1995 Annual Fall House Tour booklet.
The home at 7100 N. Ridge Boulevard is currently owned by Chris Boebel, who retired from the City of Chicago, and Glenna Eaves, a former account executive for an insurance company. Since purchasing this "mini-mansion" from the Kinnon family in 1985, their careful research and restoration work is a testament to belief in historic preservation.
This Arts and Crafts house was designed by architect Alfred J. Smith and built by the McCall Construction Company. It was originally designed for F.O. Weydell in 1916. The construction extols the virtues of the Arts and Crafts movement through its use of hand craftsmanship, simple straightforward design, quality materials and solid technique. At the time this house was built, it combined cutting-edge technology with aesthetic features that always kept function and comfort in mind. While this looks like a stucco house, the exterior walls are actually poured pebble dash cement over iron-reinforced clay tile. The use of this construction material was very limited, only used in a handful of houses located mostly in Rogers Park, Evanston, and Oak Park. This technique was in response to the demand for building residences that could be considered fireproof, since no wood or flammable material was used in the exterior, load-bearing walls. While the innovative technology was effective, it was also short lived because it was too labor intensive and expensive.
Although no wood was used in the walls, there was generous use of wood for decorative purposes, both for exterior ornamentation and throughout the purposes, both for exterior ornamentation and throughout the interior. Perhaps the fact that Mr. Weydell owned a pattern and models manufacturing company may have influenced this and also provided an affordable source of skilled wood craftsmen.
The house features front and side gables, an upper roof with unique wood braces under the eaves, exposed rafter tales and half-timbered trusses on the walls. There are 72 windows in the house affording natural illumination during all seasons of the year and maximizing ventilation during warm weather. No two are exactly the same size! Most of the windows that are to be opened regularly are easily reached from the interior of the house, allowing easy access to storm windows and screens. This is an example of the attention to the practical evident in Arts and Crafts houses. The windows above the many built-in features in the house are amber-colored glass with a simple geometric design.
The entrance porch contained a glider that was a pleasant place to tarry on a mild day or experience a summer thunderstorm. Going inside, you walk into a small, beamed foyer with a low ceiling that dramatizes the transition from the outdoor to the interior of the house. From the foyer, you enter the open, free-flowing living room, punctuated by a multi-windowed bay area that draws the eye back again to the outdoors. The bay provides a cheery seating area during the day while the benches flanking the wood-burning fireplace offer a warm and cozy spot to nestle on cold winter evenings. The wood trim mantle and built-in book cases are of birch construction, aged to a rich reddish patina.
Facing the interior of the house, the use of light-colored spindles to contrast the dark balusters and railings on the open stairwell enhances the open, vertical space between the first and second floor and provides a gallery area. The middle landing on the staircase to the second floor includes a cedar-lined chest below the trio of windows. The staircase opens into a central hall from which the three bedrooms and formal bath radiate.
The staircase and passage to the kitchen area is not original. When built, this house would have had a small live-in staff. The new re-muddled small paneled bedroom and full bathroom adjacent to the kitchen were originally for the staff, but this room now contains a library and office space. This area and the kitchen were the exclusive domain of the housekeepers and as such, had no direct access to the public living area. To accommodate a changing lifestyle that no longer included servants, the once wraparound staircase was reconfigured and this unframed doorway was cut.
The kitchen is small, but warm and efficient, with the effective use of built-in appliances. Maple was commonly used in kitchen floors and cabinets in this early 20th Century, since it was both durable and less expensive than other hard woods. While the door framing in this non-public area of the house was custom built, it was made of inexpensive pine. The adaptation of the ice delivery room off the rear landing to a pantry, and the original butler's pantry between the kitchen and dining room compensate for the limited storage available in the kitchen. The dining room has wainscoting in distressed light oak, with an oak beamed ceiling, and built-in lighted hutch. Note the architect's creative use of a thrust bay to accommodate the radiator without sacrificing floor, while still emphasizing the window area.
Upstairs, the master bedroom has been reconfigured from its original design. At one time, on the north wall, there was a wood-burning fireplace flanked by two closets. The closets were moved to the opposite wall. The French door on the east provides access to the roof of the living room bay area. Unfortunately, due to heavy traffic on Ridge Boulevard, it is now impractical for use as an open sun porch. The half-bath included in this suite has the original glass-tile paneled walls, along with custom fixtures, as does the formal bathroom upstairs. The bedroom now used as a study also has a French door which leads to a roof-top porch. It originally had a railing, but the area has now been expanded by building a cedar deck. The odd-shaped closet in the study contains an antique vanity. The third bedroom has another half-bath within the walk-in closet and a built-in wardrobe.
The back yard contains a 2-car-plus garage, with construction similar to the house; the extra long lot affords room for a patio, lawn, and extensive vegetable garden. True to its West Ridge heritage, the garden is a prolific cucumber bearer.