From House to Museum: 411 Linden


411 Linden, 2013.

The Winnetka Historical Society’s museum and headquarters at 411 Linden was first built as early as 1859 on land that was owned by Charles Peck, who is largely considered the founder of Winnetka.

The first long-term residents were the Densmore family, who moved from 440 Ridge to 411 Linden when Solymon Densmore purchased the property in 1877. The location made sense for Densmore, who had opened a shop on the corner of Cherry and Linden in 1868, where he manufactured and sold Fanning Mills, a machine that separated grain from dirt and chaff using a fan.

411 Linden, 1914.

The building is considered one of Winnetka’s best examples of the Victorian-era Gothic Revival style, which was inspired by the medieval cathedrals of Europe. While it has undergone some changes, many of the original Gothic Revival features still remain on the building today, including the pitched roof, the original doors with the tear drop windows, and the gingerbread decorations. Like most Victorian Gothic designs of the mid-to-late 1800s, 411 Linden is made of wood horizontal siding.

Side view of 411 Linden, c. 1930s.

Structurally, 411 Linden looks today much as it did when it was first built, yet it has been painted a number of different colors over the years. In 1989, for example, a “Painted Lady” competition in Chicago inspired the homeowners to paint the house a rose hue. In the 1970s, it was painted a dark teal blue shade. The house has also been painted a cream color, as well as a raspberry/hot pink for a short time. Since the Historical Society moved into 411 Linden in 2001, it has been painted the understated yet classic pale yellow you see today.

411 Linden, undated.

411 Linden, 1976. 

411 Linden, 1989.

Inside, 411 Linden underwent quite a few changes when it was transformed from a single-family home into a museum and headquarters for the Winnetka historical society in 2001. The garage, which looks like a normal garage on the outside, has been transformed into a climate-controlled archival storage facility. Upstairs, the former bedrooms are now used as offices and additional archival storage. The living and dining rooms now house two exhibit spaces. The kitchen, however, remains much the same as it did when the Historical Society acquired the property.

Winnetka Treasures exhibit at 411.

Permanent exhibit at 411.