Faulty foundation claims century-old Aurora home
By Jenette Sturges firstname.lastname@example.org August 24, 2012 1:38PM
The old Our Savior Lutheran Church rectory built in Aurora during the late 1800s was demolished on Friday August 24, 2012 because of a defective foundation that caused the structure to be unsafe. | Katherine Peters~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 27, 2012 11:10AM
A 107-year-old home in Aurora’s near West Side historic district fell to the wrecking ball — actually, excavation equipment — on Friday.
The Eilert House, at 410 W. Downer Place, was built in 1905, and over the years has served as a private residence, a doctor’s office, and a home for the Sunday School and for the pastors of Our Savior Lutheran Church next door.
The home was built in an unusual manner — twice the weight of an average home of the same size, and with no footings. Designers hoped the building’s girth would keep it intact.
“Every railing had iron coming up through it, and where there were normally 2-by-4’s, there are 4-by-4’s,” said Our Savior pastor, Rev. Jeff Mikyska. “It was built as sturdy as they come.”
But over the past 105 years, the structure has slowly been sinking into the ground, causing floors to buckle, walls to collapse, the roof to crack and the foundation to crumble beneath it.
As it has sunk, the house has also twisted in place, by about three feet.
“You can’t see it from the street, but it is no longer square to the street,” said Mikyska, who also said that guests walking west in the house can feel themselves going downhill.
On Friday morning, bulldozers took the home down, making way for a U-shaped drive for the church, part of an April settlement with the city of Aurora that will also provide additional parking in the front of the church’s property.
Though located in a historic district, the Eilert house itself is not a historic landmark, despite its storied past. The home is a near-replica of Old Manse, the Concord, Mass., residence of writer Nathaniel Hawthorne.
“I don’t know the connection between Eilert and the Hawthorne family, but there was something there,” said Mikyska.
Last year, Our Savior brought in structural engineers to see if the structure could be saved, but restoring the century-old house would have involved lifting it and completely replacing the foundation beneath, at a cost of more than a half-million dollars.
Still, some parts of the home will live on. Parishioners and residents of the neighborhood were invited into the house last week to salvage some of the home’s more interesting pieces — the mantle over the fireplace, the railings from staircases, and light fixtures and sconces.
“We were careful to make sure parts of the house live on,” said Mikyska.