Friday, Apr 18, 2014

William D. Hall House exemplifies Prairie Style

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The William D. Hall House as it looked in the early 1900s./Courtesy photo

Unfortunately, the walls in Harvard cannot talk. If they could, local history buffs would have even more insight into the fascinating home atop Hall Hill at 201 Garfield St., Harvard.

The home is appropriately named the William D. Hall House, because it was built in 1901 for the then-current mayor. Many remnants of turn-of-the-century lifestyle still exist in the home. A speaking tube connects the upper level to the dining room. Steve Bunch, who has lived in the Hall House for the past 12 years with his wife Susan, said he found wires under the floor of the dining room, presumably left over from a button in the floor used to call servants. There is also a lead cauldron in the attic used to electrically heat water for the house.

Upon entering, a small nook to the left of the door provided an area for gentlemen to wait while their dates were upstairs preparing for an evening out. The nook faced the staircase, so they would be sure not to miss the ladies as they descended.

The residence was designed by Myron Hunt, an associate of Franklyn Lloyd Wright. Hunt was born in Sunderland, Mass., Feb. 27, 1868, but his family moved to Chicago soon after. He attended Northwestern University, then moved back to Massachusetts to continue study at MIT. After spending three years in Europe, Hunt returned to Chicago to work at the local office of a Boston architectural firm.

Nancy Fisk of the McHenry County Historical Society has records of five historic structures Hunt designed in Evanston, but explained he gained most of his fame in Los Angeles. There, he designed the Rose Bowl stadium, Cal Tech campus, Pasadena City College Campus as well as several hotels.

According to Bunch, the design was one the final houses Hunt designed before he moved to Los Angeles.

The Hall House is considered Prairie Style, characterized by a low-pitched roof, wide overhanging eaves, details emphasizing horizontal lines and commonly adorned by massive, square porch-supports. The style was made famous by Frank Lloyd Wright.

William H. Hall, William D. Hall’s son, recollects in a letter to the Illinois Historic Structures Survey some of the elements that went into constructing the house.

“The stones used in the foundation and first story were gathered from farms North and South of Harvard,” Hall wrote in the letter. “The upper-story was originally stucco, or, as they called it at the time, pebble-dash. The roof was originally cedar shingles dipped in green creosote.”

The Hall House is one of six structures in Harvard plaqued by the McHenry County Historical Society, according to Grace Moline, current chairperson.

“The plaquing process is so important to the community because it raises awareness of historical preservation, provides a footprint of the community and displays the evolution of architecture through time,” said Moline.

Moline explained the plaquing process is an eight-step procedure starting with an application for consideration for a structure to be deemed historically significant. From there, the application is reviewed by a diverse committee of architects, construction workers, interior designers, longstanding members of the community and others. The committee then inspects the structure, rating it on architectural significance, maintenance, historical significance, conservation or architectural elements and age of building site, each category carrying a possible 20 points.

Structures receiving a score of 70 or better must finally be approved by the board of directors to complete the process. To learn more about the William D. Hall house and other historic sites in Harvard, contact the Greater Area Harvard Area Historical Society at 815-943-6141 or the McHenry County Historical Society at 815-923-2267.