Virtual visit of the holiday home and raffle returns

For the second year in a row, the Oak Park River Forest Infant Welfare Society (IWS) is making its Holiday Housewalk virtual. This year’s walk will feature six architecturally significant Oak Park and River Forest homes decorated for the holidays.

While the in-person walk was limited to a weekend, video access for the virtual walk will be available from December 10 to January 10, giving participants an entire month to admire the indoor and outdoor stages. The IWS is also making it easier to buy tickets by offering another great raffle of $ 10,000.

IWS Board Chair, Debbie Blanco, said the Holiday Housewalk is an integral part of the company’s mission.

“This is our first fundraiser of the year,” Blanco said. “Sixty percent of the Children’s Clinic’s budget comes from philanthropy. “

The IWS Children’s Clinic serves more than 3,400 children in more than 10,000 visits each year, providing medical, dental and behavioral care to a population in need. As construction continues on the Children’s Clinic’s new home on Madison Street, this support is more important than ever.

Among the homes on this year’s vacation promenade is a French provincial-style residence in River Forest which has retained much of its 1927 charm, perfect for the holiday spirit. | Alex Rogals / Personal Photographer

Blanco says the Holiday Housewalk, whether in person or virtual, is a good representation of the IWS as a charity.

“Our fundraisers are ‘fun collectors’. Community is very important to who we are, ”she said.

Sarina Butler, longtime IWS volunteer and writer for this year’s walk, says the walk is always a highlight of the holiday season.

“Our area is so beautiful, the architecture is extremely diverse, and many of the homes are historic,” said Butler. “The owners take pride in keeping their home looking really nice while on vacation. It’s a chance to see wonderful homes with great people willing to share them for a good cause.

This year’s homes cover a variety of styles. A River Forest house built in 1927 for a Mafia figure believed to be involved in the Valentine’s Day Massacre had seen better days when its current owners bought it.

Together with local architect Rosanne McGrath, they enlarged the house and created an interior that complements the French provincial exterior of the house. Although the family modernized the house for today’s style, it retained the original fireplace chandelier and stair railing.

An Oak Park stunner on Forest Avenue has no known architect, but the turn-of-the-20th-century house stands out among neighboring Frank Lloyd Wright designs. The house is decorated with a combination of traditional and modern furniture.

Butler says the two-story foyer features a stunning seven-foot-tall piece of art made up of eleven crystal infinity clusters.

A house designed by EE Roberts on the tour has been renovated, but Butler says, “Looks like Roberts built it yesterday.”

Quirky touches include art glass windows overlooking Chicago Avenue. One touch that isn’t original is the updated kitchen which comfortably seats 40 guests for an annual cookie-baking gathering.

In River Forest, a 126-year-old Victorian house was converted into three apartments in the 1920s. Today’s owners have returned it to a single-family home. An exterior renovation in 2010 was followed by an interior renovation in 2014 which created a modernized kitchen to suit the home’s original era.

The last house in River Forest was built in 1901 and designed by architect Charles Lowry for his son and namesake. The house was renovated early in its life and its art glass tells the story.

The original art glass features curved lines and rounded shapes while the glass installed during the renovation is more linear and modern. The current owners love to cook and showcase their Mediterranean heritage. Butler says their kitchen with its built-in, open pantry celebrates the family’s rich food heritage.

While all of this year’s homes are architecturally significant, Butler says the best known is the Arthur Heurtley House in Oak Park designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1902 and considered his first Prairie-style home. This year, the house will be professionally decorated by Forest Park’s Moss, and Butler says the natural theme will complement Wright’s Prairie design.

“They really care about the aesthetics of the house,” Butler said. “Even among the houses of Frank Lloyd Wright, it’s unique. It’s so impressive, and it’s the first time people will see it decorated for Christmas.

Butler says when COVID forced the walk to a virtual format, the IWS volunteers were a little nervous about attending. There was no need to worry. The 2020 walk raised more money than the pre-pandemic 2019 in-person walk. Butler hopes this year’s walk will do the same to provide the necessary funds for the Children’s Clinic.

Housewalk Co-Chair Monica Klinke says, “Last year we were looking for a temporary solution to our pandemic problem, and it turns out people loved this format. You can watch it at your leisure, at home in your pajamas or with your friends. Last year we had people from 24 states and as far away from France watching us. We had a wider reach.

How to do the tour

Infant Welfare Society Virtual Holiday Housewalk and Grand Raffle tickets can be purchased at

Each $ 55 ticket includes entry to the $ 10,000 grand raffle. Ticket packages that include more raffle tickets are also available for purchase.

Virtual tours will be available from December 10 to January 10. The raffle draw will be recorded and shared online on Tuesday, December 21 at 7 p.m.

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