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What's the Deal With Concrete Homes in Western Springs and La Grange?

In 1939, an enterprising contractor developed an idea for, “modern, concrete, fireproof homes.” Western Springs and La Grange were the building sites for many of them.

For many years, wood, stucco and brick were the norm for home construction. However, in 1939, a new idea arrived on the scene.

Alexander Dallach, a La Grange-based builder, formed a company named Wearproof Homes, Inc. He hired Milwaukee-based architect Walter Wendland to design his “radical” new homes, which were being promoted at that time by the Portland Cement Association. 

The resulting residences had exterior walls of lightweight concrete blocks covered with a 3/4-inch thick textured waterproofing material. They also had a poured concrete floor, or slab, for the base of the home.

The homes were advertised as being “snowy white,” and were promoted as never having to be painted. Gypsum blocks, similar to today’s wallboard, were used for interior finishing. See first photo.

Design and Cost

Even though they had very different exterior treatments, the first homes built  had almost identical room layouts, which included a living room, dining room, kitchen, two bedrooms and a bath. The second floors were usually unfinished, but capable of accommodating additional bedrooms. Later on, three additional floor designs were added to the company's offering. The homes had no basements, and they were centrally heated with gas-fired furnaces.

Dallach homes were not palatial by today’s standards, but the average cost was just $5,400 in 1939, plus $600 for a lot. Single car garages were extra, costing $300. For the more affluent, a larger version of the home could be built for $7,000, plus $750 for an extra-wide lot.  See second photo.

Where Were the Dallach Homes Built?

As of July 1939, four of the new homes had been completed in Western Springs, with 12 more under construction. Additional homes were reportedly being built in Clarendon Hills (2), Elmhurst (2), La Grange (1), and Riverside (2).

Exactly how many of these homes were ultimately built in Western Springs remains a mystery, since many became tear-downs. One news story indicated that four were built on the east side of Garden Avenue, between Maple and Oak avenues. At least three or four more were built on Sunset Terrace. In fact, one Dallach-built home still survives at 1416 Sunset Terrace, admittedly with some major improvements. See third and fourth photos for views of before and after. 

Another wonderful survivor is located at 4081 Garden Ave.  See fifth photo.

While it is not clear what happened to Alexander Dallach’s ambitious plans, he reportedly completed 40 homes by the end of 1939 and planned to build 100 more. But, with the coming of World War II, these plans apparently did not fully materialize.

But, Wait, There’s More to This Story…

While researching this story, I learned of an even older concrete block home located at 4547 Wolf Rd. Although our historical archives have little information about this beautiful home, it is believed to have been built near the turn of the century. See sixth photo.

One account suggests that it was built by one of the owners of a coal yard that was located on Hillgrove Avenue where the 7-Eleven strip mall is now located. The company sold lumber and other building supplies, and it is believed that the yard’s surplus of concrete blocks may have prompted the choice of building materials. But, whatever the case, the current owners attest to its solid construction.

If you have additional information on either the Dallach-built homes from the 1939-era, or the home at 4547 Wolf Road, we would appreciate your adding a comment below. Thanks!

Do you own an old house in La Grange, La Grange Park or Western Springs? Tell us about your home-sweet-home in comments. Do you know the year it was built? Have you discovered any artifacts while fixing the place up?

mic cagney September 06, 2012 at 05:03 PM
John: 1407 Sunset was MY house and I was living in it in the 1976 picture. LOVED that house! Still dream about it. No basement. No junk to store. Concrete block with cement poured in . . . it was a fortress! Two 8x10 bedrooms and tiny bathroom and the house of my dreams. It has since been knocked down to make room for the 21st century home. But, oh, how I miss that house. --mic cagney
mic cagney September 06, 2012 at 05:07 PM
P.S. I do have the original plans, John, if you are interested. They are framed and I can, at least, check the dates. 8-)
John Devona September 07, 2012 at 12:43 PM
Mic ... We keep files on as many of the old homes in town, as possible. Would enjoy copying anything you have for our archives. Glad you enjoyed the story. John D
Leigh Ann McGrath January 26, 2014 at 05:28 PM
We live in the 1416 Sunset Terrace home. We were suprised to discover even the second floor was all concrete, including the floor. We love it, and I was excited to find this article.
James Thomason April 27, 2014 at 03:04 PM
Hi John. We just purchased the house at 1403 Sunset Ter, and was thrilled to see the first pic in this story, and learn more about the original structure. Do you have access to the original picture? I'd love to get a copy of it!

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