Clarendon Hills is a village with a long and rich history, particularly when it comes to progressive architecture. Clarendon Hills became home to some of the best innovations in architecture, due in large part to the pioneering work of R. Harold Zook and the Sears Corporation. The homes and buildings constructed by Zook – along with ready-made homes from the Sears Corporation – appeared on the architectural landscape of the village with a lot of fanfare and examples of both remain to this day.
R. Harold Zook was an integral part of the architectural scene in DuPage County as a whole, but specifically to the villages of Clarendon Hills and Hinsdale. Zook was as integral to this area as Frank Lloyd Wright was to Oak Park. Zook designed and created over eighty homes and buildings, several of them within Clarendon Hills. Like many other architects of his generation, Zook was as much an artist as he was a home builder and his artistic vision transformed simple living spaces into works of art. His signature chevrons, scallop wood trim, and spider web designs can be seen in many of his homes. Zook also integrated beamed cathedral ceilings, Dutch doors, curved staircases, iron trim, and detailed brick patterns into many of his creations. While there are few examples of his work left, a few Zook homes still remain in Clarendon Hills.
While Zook was creating individual works of art capable of being lived in, the Sears Corporation was quickly growing in popularity with their ready-made homes. The Sears Catalog Homes were inexpensive, classic, cookie-cutter homes that could be purchased from the Sears Corporation. Between 1908 and 1940 approximately 70,000 of them were sold in the United States and Clarendon Hills was a part of the phenomenon. The home kits included all the materials needed to construct a home, including modern amenities like central heating, indoor plumbing, and electricity. These home kits were shipped by railroad car and many were built in a fashion similar to an old-style barn raising with the homeowner and friends. Although most – if not all – of the Sears Catalog Homes have been updated to suit modern living, many still stand in Clarendon Hills as a shining example to their popularity.
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