A rather unusual and widely publicized save involved the Avery Coonley Garage and Stables, also known as the Coach House (1911) in Riverside, Illinois. In 2005 the house was still owned by its owner of 52 years, an elderly woman who wished to remain in the house. Her property was managed by the Public Guardian of Cook County. The house attracted attention when the guardian sought to make much-needed but architecturally inappropriate repairs to the leaking roof of the 95-year-old building. As the building is a local landmark in the Village of Riverside, the guardian office’s application for a new roof had to be approved by the Riverside Preservation Commission.
At the request of the Conservancy, the Commission delayed a full review of the project and asked that other roofing repair options and materials be investigated by the guardian and the Conservancy. While the different roofing options were being researched, the Conservancy approached the owners and award-winning restorers of the north half of the neighboring Coonley House, to ascertain their interest in purchasing the Coach House. It soon became clear that they were seriously interested. A purchase agreement allowing title to pass to the new owners, but giving a life estate to the elderly owner, was approved by the Cook County Circuit Court, thus permitting her to remain in the house for the rest of her life, while allowing the new owner to immediately commence appropriate roof repairs. The Coach House has since been painstakingly rehabilitated using architecturally appropriate materials, and this transaction allowed two parcels from the original Coonley estate to be rejoined under one owner.
Posted on February 14, 2005