Legal Description: Grant Park IN NW 1/4 SEC 24-7-21
BLOCK 7 N 7' LOT 21& S 28' LOT 22
The Brown residence was built in 1908. It has a Gambrel roof that is subdivided into four parts (each part looks like a large dormer). A large front porch under a shed roof runs the length of the house and the entry is offset to the left. The front of the house has a large bay window and veranda with rectangular metal-clad columns extending from one end to the other. Front steps lead to the porch. The home welcomes its guests through a vestibule which makes the floor plan airy and open.
The large living room offers a vantage point to the entire first floor. The two pocket doors blanketing two large sections of the living room gives the house an open floor plan and the flexibility to enclose three large spaces (living room, dining, and kitchen) on the first floor. As a result the lower floor has three parallel territorial zones running from the front to the back of the house—a front, a middle and a back bay. The public and formal areas of the house is located in the front zone. An impressive, ornate wooden staircase located in a middle bay connects to the second floor. A swing door, opens the dining space to the ornate staircase ascending to the second floor. Another door located on the side of the staircase hides a half-bath that fits partially underneath the stairs. The back bay holds the service areas such as the back staircase and kitchen.
Contrast this organization to the two bays that organize the interiors along the length of the building—a left bay with the stairs, kitchen and entrance hall and a right bay with dining, living and back stairs. The living-dining area located along the right bay, opens up to accommodate 20 or more people.
The second floor plan is more enclosed compared to the first floor. Two smaller rooms occupy spaces in the front of the house. A procession towards the back of the house points to another staircase that leads to the attic space. In the back of the house, a door leads to a balcony that is no longer in use.
The Brown residence interior is comparable to many commercially available layouts popular during the 1900s. The plan layout of the Brown residence is similar to that of the Chicago House Wrecking Co. Design #134 and Henry J. Green House in Fredonia New York available in pattern books and mail-order catalogs of the time. Both examples are considered to be of the Four-Square style. The design #134 house consisted of both front and side bay windows along with a dormer that extrudes from the roof and a massive colonial porch. The Green house closely resembles the design #134 house with a few exceptions. A closer comparison of the floor plans reveals that the Green house eliminated the pantry space to make the kitchen and dining room bigger. Other minor changes can be seen in the placement of windows and doors. Unlike the Green house and Design #134 plans, the kitchen plan for this residence doesn’t line up directly with the dining room space due to the staircase and bathroom that occupy the intermediate spaces between the living room and kitchen. This change in designs makes the staircase leading to the basement and backyard space more generous.
From House to Home
In the 1900s this entire block was unoccupied and it wasn't until the 1910 census that the block was filled with houses. Since the house was built, at least eight families have lived in it. The owner, John Kempf, was a New York born foreman for Milwaukee Stoveworks and owned two other lots adjacent to the property. Mr. Kempf's parents were born in Germany and he lived in the house with his wife and daughter.
The house hasn't always looked like it does today. After 1982, Mr. and Mrs. Brown, the current owners, gradually began refurbishing the house. They replaced the aluminum siding, round metal columns in the veranda, and waffle board covering the porch. The wood panels were replaced with drywall, which allowed the rich brown door frames to stand out. The shag carpeting was removed throughout most of the house in order to give way to a natural wood flooring. The kitchen was entirely re-done in order to bring it to its current state. The couple and their family have had great moments in this house including their wedding, family celebrations, and birthdays. The architecture may describe an exterior and interior form, but the family and its lasting memories have defined the home.
Ulysses & Barbara Brown, interview and documentation by Nicole Robinson, Godson Mollel and Milan Outlaw, June 2014.
Browns talk about their home.