Back to Previous Page

History Lives Here Text

Raising the Bedrooms:

The Alvord-Vosburgh Cottage Pair

by George M. Clark

Part Two

In an earlierissue, the development of the existing lake shore cottages at numbers 310 and332 was begun by tracing the schedule of construction of the Alvord cottage at332 from 1899 through. 1903 and beyond. Due to therather primitive sanitation conditions at the start of the cottage building"boom" years, alterations would be made after only a few years tobring them to environmental standards which they experienced in their Oak Park, Chicago,and college town homes. such improvements were thebasis for updating both the neighboring two-story cottages in this discussion,


The Vosburgh Schedule

Unlike theAlvord House, the original plans ordered by William R. Vosburghfrom the Sears, Roebuck catalogue of pre-cut rural home designs are notavailable, but reports indicate that Sears was studying the means to market astandard two-story hip-roofed model as a cottage, and offered -- probablythrough Hines Lumber Co. in Chicago -- tolet Vosburgh become "test buyers," perhapsfor a price consideration. All this was realized by July l, 1900.

It is known that theVosburgh Cottage was doubling by 1901 as an amazinglycrowded Sunday School for the devout Oak Park Presbyterians led by William Vosburgh and his wife, Annie.


Thereis a photo of the north approach to the front porch of their two-storySears-designed shingled cottage showing 75 students.[#1]

Given thesomehow-seated arrangement of this number of bodies throughout the 22' by 22'main area of the first floor on the bad weather Sundays each person couldoccupy only seven square feet average and the group supplied a "liveload" total of 7500 pounds Significantly, the updating of this cottage hasincluded the rebuilding of the floors after years of excess structural shakiness.3 Temporary relief came in 1904 when the Lake ShoreChapel was built, but the addition of a second full bath in the Vosburgh's southeast second story did nothing to alleviatethe need for structural enhancement.


As Built Plan and Shortly After

Figure 1 shows the simplicity ofthe original design, which has subsequently received additions. Both front andrear porches have been enclosed as, respectively, living and dining spaces. Theoriginal first floor bath was carved out of the south end of the kitchen andwas accessible only from the open porch. Until the full-width front porch wasscreened, the living room had an enviable view of the lake through double-hungwindows to the west and four more in a bay window to the north, clear of the Alvords' front due to the slight northeast slope of thelake shore (cottages and lots were aligned east-west). The carefully-craftedbead-board ceiling of the porch remains in as good condition today as it was inthe unscreened background of the 1903 Sunday Schoolphoto. Another lasting feature of the Vosburgh stockplan is the hip roof peak ventilator cupola -- providing convection cooling bymeans of inside pulleys and hopper doors on four sides while giving thefarmhouse profile an Italianate appearance.



In 1905,reportedly, the Vosburghs decided to add 308, a merecabin originally, to the dune above and 35feet behind the main cottage. This move was inspired and made possible byAlvord's probable 1903-04 addition of inside plumbing as part of his delayedcottage completion, including the water and septic systems. Vosburghapparently matched his neighbor's modernization by including an operatingbathroom in the ample basement space under the satellite cottage. It was placedneatly under the 8' by 8' (original) lean-to kitchen on the east on thebackside slope of the dune.



As can be seenin Figure 2, the plan of this little house was 16' x 18' (plus kitchen andfront porch) divided into a pair of bunk rooms and a living-dining half. The 6in 12 gabled roof with 2' overhangs on four sidesspanned the 16' dimension without ceiling joists (children gleefully still seeover the top of the partition from the top bunks). Fortunately the intersectingfront porch and rear kitchen roofs supply the lateral stability for the untrussed rafters (which are 2 x 4s at 24" centers). The use of casement windows gives thewhole an Arts and Crafts flavor with very little craftsman detail.4


In recent years the front porchhas been enclosed under the ample existing roof as a living room, and theformer "great" room half has been assigned to dining and largerkitchen space. With reorientation of the "main" entrance to theravine on the back side of the dunes, a third bedroom has been added to thesouth. Whether the Vosburghs used this satellite forrental is not clear, but the next owners, the Burns family, certainly did,since they had added an earlier bedroom and half bath (with maid's roomunderneath) to the north and east in the 1930s. Completion of the full upperbath and modernization of the old lower bath are now realized. An Alvordcottage satellite was added after World War II to provide then-owner Lucy Watta summer stay while the original cottage was primarily rented out. It bears thenumber 334 and appears to be a National Homes prefab.

Both "compounds" haveinstalled laundries in the available lower levels.



Alvord cottage




1 Budd, N. J. Lake Shone Chapel, 1904-197. Therewere members of other denominations included, such as Congregational ministerHarold Sayles of Oak Park.

2 Ibid This photo was taken by 19-year-old Earl Fowler,collected by Lucy Watt, and featured in the cited work, complete with a guideto all persons known to be present.

3 Original floor beamswere only 5 1/2" deep for spanning about 14' and were 3 feet apart becauseof the coffered ceiling effect desired. By today's codes they would be allowedto carry only 20 pounds per square foot. (Residential loading is 35 pounds persquare foot for joists

4 There is evidencethat in the framing the Vosburghs used preassembledpanels for the building of the satellite cottage (ala Sears, Roebuck methodsonce again). Notes written o; the parts in Dutch were visible for years. 5 Theauthor has asked the KLSWA and Douglas to remove an unsightly and illegalsurface storm drain which now ruins the beauty of the ravine view from the neworientation It is on the property of the next lot south (298) and wasapparently installed without obtaining an easement from the owner.

Correctionsto Installment # 1

In Footnote # 1 Thecorrect address of the Woodcock cottage is 298

In Footnote # 2 Thecorrect first name of the latest buyer of 298 is Maurice Paris, originally ofSaugatuck, now deceased.