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The Hyde Park Historical Society commissioned this assessment report in March of 2015 in order to evaluate overall conditions of the facility and to aid in future project planning and budgeting. Douglas Gilbert Architect and Elizabeth Trail Architect conducted the assessment with a scope of work that focused on evaluating existing conditions of the exterior walls, roof, masonry, windows, doors, interiors and assessing building and accessibility code compliance. Mechanical and electrical systems were excluded. Recommendations are based on best practices for renovating historic buildings and meeting the Chicago Landmark Review Guidelines, as well as working with reasonable budgets of the association.
The HPHS building is located at 5529 South Lake Park Avenue. It is situated on the east side of the street and built into the railroad embankment. It was likely built circa 1893 for the Chicago City Street Railway, a cable car system that connected Hyde Park with the Chicago Loop. The building served as a passenger depot and included a waiting room and ticket office. This is likely the only surviving building from Chicago’s once-extensive cable car system.
The building is approximately 20 feet by 40 feet in footprint and has a brick masonry and brownstone exterior. The main façade faces west along the street and has two sets of wood doors and several large window openings. The north and south elevations are brick with smaller window openings (on account of the embankment). There is a short-height brick wall on the east elevation with shorter windows; the rest of the wall is built into the embankment. A hipped roof with deep eaves covers the building.
On the interior, there is a main common waiting room, a small ticket office and a small restroom. The interior was significantly rebuilt in 1980 in a manner consistent with the building’s historic character, but is not historically accurate. Walls and ceilings are of wood bead-board paneling. The flooring is oak. Doors and trim work are wood.
The building is used by the HPHS as a museum and exhibition space, office space and for public meetings and events. It is open to the public during pre-set hours and for special events. It was restored and renovated under the direction of architect John Vinci about 1980. Other than maintenance, no other major renovation work has been done since.
Overall, the facility is in good condition and has been well maintained since 1980. While there are always repairs and renovations to make to a building over 110 years old, constant maintenance and repair prevents the building from deteriorating to a point that maintenance becomes excessively costly. Deferred maintenance almost always results in larger repair costs and damage to other parts of the building, even if in the short term it may seem fiscally necessary. The following recommendations are intended to maintain a safe building for the occupants and to address ongoing and new issues that require architectural and financial planning to implement.