Gazette Article by: Joan Evanich
Appeared in the Gazette: Fall 2004
House of the Season: The 1928 Vernon Welsh Home
“What a great party house!” This statement was heard over and over again at the Society’s annual Gala graciously hosted by Bruce and Kristin Koepfgen. The Southern Colonial style home at 1180 Westmoor (formerly Fig Street) was originally built in 1928 for the Vernon and Fanita Welsh family. Architect Russell Smith Walcott began designs for the Vernon Welsh house in 1926. Born in Chicago in 1889, Mr. Walcott was a graduate of Princeton University. He studied architecture in Europe and formed a partnership with his older brother, Chester Walcott, from 1919-1920. He designed this home under his own name and later partnered with renowned architect, Robert Work, from 1928 until his retirement.
The design is reminiscent of a large plantation. It is constructed of cement over metal lath and has a great deal of interior masonry. Large, white stylized Ionic pillars support the half-circle portico which mirrors the circular drive. Third-floor fan lights and multi-paned double-hung windows complete the Southern Colonial design.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Welsh personally oversaw every aspect of the design and construction of the house, including minute details such as the type of plaster and the construction of the window sills and doorplates. They installed an oil-burning furnace, an avant-garde decision for 1928. Mrs. Welsh was a bit concerned about the safety of this innovation. To protect against fire or explosion, thick cement floors were installed on the ground floor above the furnace.
Vernon Welsh was born in 1891 in Galesburg, Illinois. A graduate of Knox College and Harvard Law (1916), Mr. Welsh was a lawyer with the firm now known as Kirkland & Ellis. He was a valuable citizen of Winnetka and served as Village President from 1960-64. He passed away in 1969. A memorial was placed in his honor at Centennial Park in 1970.
Fanita Ferris Welsh (1896-1986) was the great granddaughter of Mr. and Mrs. Sylvanus Ferris, founders of Knox College. Mrs. Welsh was also active in the community and served on the Winnetka boards of Gads Hill Center and Northwestern University Settlement. Mr. and Mrs. Welsh had two daughters.
In 1941, the Welsh’s daughter Sallie (Van Arsdale) was debuted from the home. At the time, she was a sophomore at Vassar College. Sallie went on to graduate from Navy Supply Corps School and served in the United States Navy during World War II. Now residing in Florida, she was a long-time resident of Winnetka and is a good friend of the Historical Society.
Sallie’s younger sister Rosanna was always known as Posey. She graduated from Mills College in 1948 and lived oversees, working for the Marshall Plan in Paris. She married C. Bateman Ewart in 1951. They both worked for the United Nations in various locations around the world. She lives in Wilmington, North Carolina, and still makes frequent visits to France.
The Welsh family sold their home in 1965. The second owners, Ferdinand and Eleanor Nadherny, enclosed the porch and enlarged the breakfast area. They raised five children in the home. Perhaps this was the reason that Mrs. Nadherny added a laundry on the second floor. The current owners, Bruce and Kristin Koepfgen, added a wing on the east side, balancing the house architecturally and increasing its floor space by about a third. They also completed extensive interior renovations and formalized the gardens.
The care taken by the original, previous and current owners is evident in the way the home has withstood the test of time.