The Clark Netsch House in Old Town will become a Chicago landmark under a recommendation slated for approval later this month, when aldermen will weigh whether to solidify the building’s status as a landmark of the North Side neighborhood’s architectural heritage while providing tribute to one of the city’s most beloved power couples.
The City Council’s zoning committee met Tuesday and unanimously moved to advance the landmark designation of the home at 1700 N. Hudson Ave. in a full floor vote, scheduled for the upcoming meeting in May. If the measure passes, the contemporary-style building once occupied by trailblazing politician Dawn Clark Netsch and her architect husband, Walter Netsch, would be protected from demolition and major alterations.
“The Landmarks Commission found that the house reflects Old Town’s legacy as an attractive neighborhood for Chicago creatives in the 20th century,” said Department of Planning and Development official Matt Crawford. “The Commission also found the house significant for its association with Dawn Clark Netsch. … Her career was distinguished by her excellent government credentials.”
Crawford continued: “The commission also recommends the house is a significant work of modern architecture. It was designed by architect Walter Netsch as his home and it demonstrates Netsch’s field theory of architecture and its expression of rotated squares in the design , inside and outside.
Clark Netsch made history as the first woman elected to statewide office in Illinois when she won the 1990 comptroller race after a stint in the General Assembly. The socially liberal Democrat broke another glass ceiling four years later by becoming Illinois’ first female gubernatorial candidate to win the nomination of a major party, but she ultimately lost the general election to Republican Jim Edgar .
Clark Netsch died in 2013, leaving behind the one-story house she had lived in since it was built in 1974 under the design of her late husband Walter, a noted Brutalist architect, art collector and former board president of the Chicago Park District who died in 2008 Soon after, his estate sold the house, and its current owner, William Forrest, signed his approval for the landmark designation earlier this year .
The house was described by Clark Netsch in a 1979 Tribune interview as “designed like a corkscrew. In theory you start at the bottom and wind your way up and around from level to level and room to room. The Its spacious interior walls accommodate the couple’s art collection, which includes the Roy Lichtenstein painting “Black Flowers,” which Walter Netsch bought for $600 and later sold for $2 million, giving important money for her husband’s successful 1990 campaign for state comptroller.
Before Tuesday’s vote, downtown Ald. Brian Hopkins also shared fond memories of the Old Town house from his earlier days working under Clark Netsch in the ’90s.
“Walter Netsch was just proud of it,” Hopkins said. “His house was his love and his passion and it clearly qualifies for landmark status in every possible way. But its history in Chicago and its contribution to the politics of our city, in through his wonderful wife Dawn, will last forever and is the right thing to do.”