At the southwestern border of Skokie lies this peculiar little pocket of neighborhood. It is isolated by design, with several roads just not going through to the nearest artierials like Pratt and Niles Center. Thus, it’s a really easy little corner to miss.
I’ve posted garage doors from this area before. The neighborhood is home to some particularly idiosyncratic MidCentury ranch houses, the kind that can’t make up their mind whether they represent western frontier living, or Jackie Kennedy and Camelot fashion. They all went up in the mid- to late-1960s, hot on the heels of the 1964 creation of Coyle Park, now Norman Schack Park. They were built by Shaf Home Builders (still in business today), though the Tribune archives are stubbornly unforthcoming about the company. Shaf offered home models that went by slighly outlandish names such as the “Cleopatra”, the “Queen Cleopatra” (the “ultimate in Colonial elegance”) and the “Casa del Encanto”, some of which were built here.
Those houses are the main attraction, or so I thought. On a whim, I passed by a second time recently… and discovered just how odd are the houses in this little corner of southwest Skokie.
The big showstoppers are this trio of brick houses, with clear Art Deco influences. The tidy, compact footprint and the brickwork style both point to the inter-war years, and the hand of a professional architect. The Cook County database at CityNews, however, dates it to 1962. 1962?? This doesn’t look anything like 1962. BlockShopper.com dates the group to 1948, and another site says 1946, both of which make a lot more sense.
The databases have the rest of the block as going up between 1940 and 1950. Those houses follow the same small-footprint plan, but only the first floor is sheathed in brick. Ranch house touches are added in. The separate mass of the entryway, and the raised brick stripes at the corners, peg the entire block to a single designer and make the buildings relate to their more high-minded neighbors on the corner.
Then, a block north, amid some typical raised ranches, sits this lovely 1950s house.
…which has a grown-up cousin amid all the Shaf Builders strangeness nearby.
It’s a real box-of-chocolates neighborhood, well worth a repeat visit.