Gazette Article by: Cindy Fuller
Appeared in the Gazette: Summer 1994
Victorian Gothic on the Move
By the time of Winnetka’s incorporation in March of 1869, population growth was steady and many new residents were building homes near the main business district. The house at 510 Ash Street provides a glimpse of Winnetka in these early days. It was originally built in the mid-1870s at the corner of Cherry and Poplar Streets. Judge Thomas G. Windes and his family, arriving in Winnetka in 1879, purchased the house and moved it to 510 Ash. Lumber was then less of a commodity than it is today, and with no overhead electrical wiring to worry about, moving houses was a much more common and economical practice.
The house is a Victorian Gothic with a main gable and wing containing the front entry and porch. The gable contains two bay windows, on the north and east sides of the house. Pairs of windows with pointed hoodmoldings and dentils under the eaves provide decoration to this small-scaled, clapboard house. Over the years, the house has seen several additions, including a garage and breezeway in 1954 and extensions to the rear.
Victorian Gothic buildings were loosely based on medieval cathedrals, emphasizing verticality, with steeply pitched roofs pointing heavenward. There are no bats in the belfries with later interpretations of the original Gothic style. Victorian buildings were much more whimsical and heavily decorated. The power driven scroll saw accommodated the attitude of “more is not nearly enough.” Pattern books circulated, allowing builders to copy examples. A number of homes sporting such décor still survive today in Winnetka, including those at 594 Elm, 328 Linden, 1026 Elm, and 270 Scott.
Thomas G. Windes and his family have left a valuable legacy in the village. Windes was one of the early supporters of the Town Meeting, and he was a judge of the Appellate Court of Cook County in Chicago for 30 years. His son, Frank Windes, was one of Winnetka’s most influential citizens, both as lifelong resident and village engineer from 1898-1940. He was a teacher of manual training, a founding member of the Winnetka Historical Society and architect of a number of homes in town. He devised two visionary engineering projects—plans to lower the Chicago North Western railroad tracks and to turn the Skokie swamp into a lagoon system—decades before these issues were addressed. This summer the Elm Street Bridge will be renovated recreating his design from 1906.
As the current owners are planning to build a new home on this site, they are hoping that this lovely historic home can once again find a new location.