Prairie-style home opens for tours Sept. 23-24

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-115885866127061.jpg’, ‘Photo provided’, ‘Tours of the newly renovated Prairie-style Wigell-Carlson home at 1010 N. Second St. will be from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 23-24.’);

Gary Carlson, noted local advocate for historic preservation, and owner of the newly renovated Prairie-style Wigell-Carlson home at 1010 N. Second St., in the historic Browns Hills/Knightsville neighborhood, is opening his home for public tours Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 23-24, as a benefit for Friends of the Coronado Theatre.

The event is called TOUR 1010. Tour times are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days. Cost is $10 at the door. Parking is available in the north end of the YMCA’s back lot along the river. Proceeds from the event will be used by Friends of the Coronado for performance and preservation-related activities in the historic Coronado Theatre.

The home was built in 1908 for Oscar Wigell, a Steinway and Haddorff piano dealer, by Chicago architect Lawrence Buck, who worked with Frank Lloyd Wright in his first solo practice. Buck had an office in Rockford from 1903 to 1911, and he designed 10 other significant homes and one commercial building in the area. Because Rockford has no early Wright Prairie buildings, Buck and the several prominent area homes are Rockford’s closest connection to Wright’s famous Prairie-style design.

“Inclusion of this house and neighboring homes in the Browns Hills/Knightsville historic district protected them from destruction,” said Carlson. “I remembered how beautiful the house had been, and envisioned how it could be again.”

Carlson bought the home in October 2002. Restoration began four months later, and was very recently completed.

Preservation of an architectual gem

For the past three years, hundreds of thousands of motorists driving by on busy North Second Street may have watched the dramatic transformation. What most perceived as an eyesore has become an elegant showplace because of Carlson’s perseverance and devotion to architectural authenticity and detail.

Carlson and other preservationists have been working to save this, and its neighboring homes, for more than 30 years.

Carlson said, “Because the house had become so homely after years of neglect and remuddling, prominent local ‘authorities’ recommended demolition.”

Carlson, 57, involved in automobile sales since age 11, has an extensive background in historic preservation, and served on Rockford’s Historic Preservation Commission for 12 years. As one of the original board members of Restoration Education, Carlson was also a founder of the Indian Terrace Preservation Association, which created Rockford’s third historic district out of an endangered inner-city riverfront residential neighborhood.

With partners Kurt and Sarah Bell, Carlson restored and renovated more than eight historic properties, including a turn-of-the-century worker’s cottage, which serves as offices and service center for his auto sales lot.

The restored Prairie-style home at 1010 N. Second St. has been nominated for Landmark Preservation Council of Illinois’ 2006 Richard H. Dreihaus Foundation Preservation Award.

From the Sept. 20-26, 2006, issue

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