A crowd of people who attended the Maywood Historic Homes Housewalk Trolley Tour on Sun. July 12, 2015. Bottom left: Janny Cornejo shows off her home at 304 S. 5th Avenue, which she is currently in the process of restoring to its original historic state.
Thursday, July 16, 2015 || By Michael Romain
Mark Jurewicz has lived in Maywood all his life. He said his grandmother moved here in “1908 or 1909.” All his aunts and uncles were born here. He’s rooted.
“But it still takes me by surprise when I look at some of these homes,” he said. “I’ve driven by these houses my whole life and I go, ‘Whoa, I didn’t know it looked like this inside.’”
Jurewicz was a volunteer at last Sunday’s Maywood Historic Homes Housewalk Trolley Tour. This year’s Housewalk was the first since 2013. The event is sponsored and organized by Neighbors of Maywood Community Organization (NOMCO).
About a dozen homes were on display, including that of Janny Cornejo. About an hour into the event, she was sitting on the porch of 304 S. 5th Avenue — it’s called the Peake House in the brochure.
It was built around 1870 in the mold of Gothic Revival architecture and its American offshoot, called Carpenter Gothic.
“The style is inspired by Gothic cathedrals in its vertical reach and buttresses, and uniquely American in its use of timber, an improvisation on the carved stone features of authentic Gothic architecture,” the brochure reads.
Today, however, a commuter driving through town might mistake the house for just another blighted building. It’s easy to dismiss and hard to wonder why it was included on a tour of a village’s prized architectural gems — until you walk inside.
It takes a bit of historical knowledge and imagination, but the home’s subtle grandeur and plain grace grows on you.
As soon as you step inside, a textured, richly layered fireplace greets you. There are gables and diamond windows and a curved staircase.
“This is going to be restored to its original state,” Cornejo said of the home. “The wallpaper you see is original. The house has its original wood and fireplace. We’re going to restore all of that.”
And so it went that Sunday — one full of oohs and aahs and ahas.
Laura Lange, chairwoman of the Housewalk’s planning committee, said at least 100 people from places such as Oak Park and Elmhurst showed up at the Maywood Library, 121 S. 5th Avenue, within the first hour; waited to load a trolley; and commenced a rare exploration of a town — like Cornejo’s Peake House — that most out-of-towners would more likely drive by than serenade with their curiosity.
The Housewalk was an experience longtime Maywood residents like Barbara Eaves, who has lived in the village for 45 years, relished.
This was Eaves’ first year volunteering and her first experience with the Housewalk. As much as she knows this place already, she was also an explorer in her own right.
“I didn’t know about all of these historical homes,” she said. “I did know that 9th Avenue used to have a seminary, but the other homes I didn’t know about.”
Eaves, and the other volunteers, said it’s a learning experience that’s valuable for Maywood’s image.
“We’re looking to cast Maywood in the positive light that it deserves,” said Lange. “This is a tradition that’s been going on and off since the 1980s. We have very good housing stock here from all kinds of historical housing styles.”
Lange said planning the event was a community affair, with residents “even pitching it just to make sure the streets are cleaned.”
“Anytime we can showcase our community, why not? This accentuates the positives and it shows the outside world that this is a community so people volunteering and people coming in from other places can see that we love it, we’re engaged in it and we have something to offer,” said longtime resident and Cook County Recorder of Deeds Karen Yarbrough, who was a volunteer this year.
Former mayor and current Trustee Henderson Yarbrough, who also volunteered, said he was drawn into service by Lange’s passion and her commitment.
“I think this is a very good thing for Maywood,” he said. “Laura tries so hard to help the village be all it can be, how could I say no?”
“Hopefully, we’ll keep bringing the good along with these Housewalks,” said Jurewicz. “In the meantime, we’ll just keep working trying to get better and better.” VFP