We go to a lot of “estate sales” Often they are in really cool buildings that are more interesting than anything on sale. We recently went to such a sale in an old church that had been converted into a residence. The little neighborhood church was in the middle of a block of formerly working class houses in the now pricey Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago. Driving past, you wouldn’t give the place a second look. But on the inside, the new owners have made the place worthy of an article in “Architectural Digest”
As you walk in the front door and up a flight of stairs, it looks like any other Protestant church from the early 20th century. Beautiful woodwork on the stairs and ceiling remind you of an earlier time when old world craftsmen built buildings with pride. But as you enter the main church, things get different very fast. Angular platforms and bold designs loosely defined the house into a living room type area, a dining room type area and an area for just standing back and saying, “Wow”
I don’t pretend to know anything about architecture, but you could tell somebody was trying to make a statement here. They still had the ceiling paintings of Jesus and his disciples in the former altar area, but most of the house looked a science fiction movie. It was beautiful and weird at the same time. It makes you think about what kind of people lived here and why did they move?
In the old days, an estate sale was just that, a sale of the excess belongings of a person who had died. The sale would consist of things the relatives didn’t want. Nowadays, estate sales can be as a result of divorce or just because people want to start all over and just buy new stuff. Finally, people staging run-of-the-mill yard sales like to gussy up their ad by calling them “estate” rather than the more honest “yard” sale. In the East, they call them “stoop” sales. Whenever we go to a place that advertised a stoop sale, I always ask them if they are from the East. “Yeah, how did you know?” “Just guessing”
A lot of neighborhood organizations stage annual open houses of cool homes, offices and places of worship in their area that are normally off limits to the general public. But those are places run by people willing to share their good fortune. There are still lots of other places that will never be open due to understandable privacy concerns. But at estate sales, all notions of privacy are out the window and the object is to make a buck selling everything including the toaster. They’ve moved on, in one way or another and a place that might have been a well kept secret 6 months ago is now open to the public, all in the hope of selling that toaster and all the other stuff that’s left over.
The neighborhood where this church/home is located is gentrifying quickly. Million dollar McMansions are replacing workmen’s cottages at an amazing clip. My guess this place will be torn down in the coming months to be replaced by something huge and new. As cool as it is, it’s no match for a 6 bedroom 5 bath behemoth like so many others around here now. What an unexpected delight to see this house before its demise. It’s a bit of history, weird confused history, but history nonetheless.