This historic mid-century modern home in suburban Chicago is free for anyone who can move it, but experts say moving it can be a challenge

  • The residence is free if you can move it before April 1, curator Shauna Wiet told Insider.
  • The modern house in Elgin, Illinoismust be moved to make room for new industrial developments.

Time is running out for a history mid century modern house nestled in the suburbs of Chicago. However, the property owner and local stakeholders work together in a last ditch attempt to save the house and offer it for a bargain price: $0.

New developments take possession of the property

The house, located at 35W655 Tollgate Road in Elgin, Illinois, was designed and built in 1967 by architect John Schmidtke as his personal residence. And like other Modernist glass-box houses of the time, the Low-rise Residence was meant to blend in with, not deprive of, its natural surroundings.

The house at 35W655 Tollgate Road in Elgin, Illinois.Julia Thavong

However, in recent years, industrial development has grown around the property, encroaching on what was once rural grassland in the 1960s. And in the coming months, new industrial development is expected to take over the site.

Developer High Street Logistics has been granted permission to build two large facilities on the 32-acre site, an October report from the Chicago Tribune said.

Anyone interested in taking the house has until April to move it, says local resident Shauna Wiet. immovable officer and chairman of the Kane County Historic Preservation Commission.

“This house doesn’t belong in a landfill,” Wiet says of the Modernist home. “But the problem is that the developer wants it out by April 1st and we had a hard time figuring out where it might go.”

A recent post on the popular Cheap Old Houses Instagram page has brought renewed attention to the house, earning 74,000 likes and hundreds of comments since February 15. And while the house is truly being offered for free, Wiet says the landlord and preservationists really only consider takers who have a workable plan.

“If we can find a legitimate person who can afford to move it, that’s a great house,” Wiet said. “It could be on a large five-acre residential lot.”

The prospect is certainly attractive, especially for Millennials and Gen Z buyers who have been excluded from an overheated residential market, but home relocation will not be an inexpensive task.

Moving the house can be difficult

Moving the house could certainly be difficult, suggests Wiet, but not impossible. However, it could become cost prohibitive to move the house away from the immediate area.

Diane Guest of Davis Construction Building Movers, a company that moves homes locally around New York City, told Insider this home could be expensive to move.

“If this house was on Long Island, it would have to be cut into several pieces,” she said. “With brick and chimneys, we had to wrap around the bottom of the exterior brick and use additional equipment to support the weight.”

This historic mid-century modern home in suburban Chicago is free for anyone who can move it, but experts say moving it can be a challenge
Julia Thavong

Guest said that when it comes to moving a house, there are usually several steps. First, the buyer should obtain permits to move the house before hiring a general contractor to coordinate with a moving company, utility companies, and tradesmen like masons and carpenters. After disconnecting the utilities from the house, removing the landscaping and installing the foundation for the new site, the house can finally be moved.

In Guest’s opinion, this particular house would probably take about two weeks to move, she said, adding that the house usually moves slightly faster than walking speed.

“I suspect if you’re going a long distance the mover might load the house onto the equipment differently than we would and it would move faster.”

Wiet also thinks the house could be divided into sections for relocation, but shifting the move to a nearby site would be the most practical solution. Either way, she thinks there are other practical reasons to repurpose the old house.

“Not only does it not belong in a landfill, architecturally and locally significant, but the greenest house is the one that’s already built,” she says. “It doesn’t make sense to throw things away and then have to rebuild them if you have a viable use for the home.”

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