Everybody loves a good comeback story — especially when it relates to architecturally and historically significant buildings rescued from the bulldozer. Nowadays, you never know what can happen to an older property when it hits the market. Hinsdale is known for teardowns, so color me surprised to learn a 1950s Keck & Keck design was restored to its former glory by a team of rehabbers even though it’s currently surrounded by new construction. A suspected work by architect R. Harold Zook was rescued after sitting vacant for a decade, while a 1920s dairy barn and 19th century church are great examples of adaptive reuse. Larry Booth was a member of the postmodern group of architects known as the Chicago Seven who rebelled against the austere look of Mies van der Rohe that had been taking over the city. When a buyer purchased a 1970s Booth-designed home, he thought it would be wrong to raze it, so Booth returned to freshen up the interior spaces. The following historic properties for sale all faced uncertain futures but today have a new lease on life thanks to individuals who saw their potential. 

701 Taft Rd, Hinsdale, $2,599,000

Sold two years ago for roughly the value of the land ($800,000 to be exact), this 1958 U-shaped, five-bedroom, six-bathroom home on a corner lot was once in a state of disrepair but is now ready for the 21st century. The rehab project included putting in new plumbing and electricity as well as updating the kitchen and bathrooms to fit with the midcentury modern aesthetic. But original details were saved, such as the vertical-hung cedar planking on the walls, numerous built-ins, and architect George Fred Keck’s signature louvered air circulating window panels. Keck, a pioneer of passive solar design, would be happy that solar panels were added to the roof, and the garage has wiring for electric car chargers. New landscaping of natural rock, plants, and paver stones on the hillside contrast perfectly with the boxy house of brick and glass.

8 Calleview Dr, La Grange, $1,099,000

This 1929 Mediterranean Revival villa in La Grange was saved and restored by a pair of new construction builders, Julie Brands and Brian Healy, who bought it over a year ago for $342,000. After a significant markup in price, the four-bedroom, four-bathroom stucco home with red tile roof on two-thirds of an acre is ready for its new owner, which might be soon as it’s currently contingent. Many of the original features remain, such as scalloped doorways, rusticated wood beams, stone fireplace, and bottle-bottom art glass windows. Allegedly designed by architect Harold Zook, you can see one of his trademarks in the chevron-patterned wood paneling of the breakfast nook. Some of the updates include a new kitchen, bathrooms, sauna, furnace, and air conditioning. 

2805 W Justen Rd, McHenry, $965,000

What is the fate of an old dairy barn from the 1920s when it no longer serves its intended purpose? Instead of knocking it down, this historic structure located on four acres in McHenry was converted into a six-bedroom, seven-bathroom, single-family residence. Some highlights include the 2.5-story great room with stone fireplace and exposed wood beams, spacious primary bedroom with vaulted ceilings and loft space, and a walk-out basement that includes an in-law suite. Besides the charming limestone patio, I love the fact that this barn comes with outdoor space for horses, such as a five-stall Lester barn and paddock. The property is adjacent to 14 acres of conservation area as well as the Kettle Moraine Nature Preserve and Moraine Hills State Park.

1021 W Barry Ave #2W, Chicago, $795,000

When a congregation leaves a historic church, the building can sometimes sit empty for decades, which is what happened to St. Boniface in Noble Square. A developer can either demolish it or convert the structure for commercial or residential use. Originally built in 1898, the former Elim Swedish Methodist Church in Lakeview was turned into condos nearly 40 years ago. Located right under the rafters of the sanctuary is this three-bedroom, two-bathroom triplex loft that comes with 25-foot-high cathedral ceilings, arched timber beams, exposed brick walls, and a large semi-circular window. The condo has a wood roof deck with mega-tempered walkable glass as well as tandem two-car parking space in the building’s ground-level parking garage.

2104 N Cleveland Ave, Chicago, $2,750,000

Two years ago, this 1976 brick, wood, and steel residential design in Lincoln Park had no protection from demolition when the children of its original owners auctioned the home. Located on a triangular corner site, it easily could have been replaced by a multi-unit building. Instead, the five-bedroom, four-bathroom, single-family house was rescued with a full renovation by Booth Hansen. While the main living spaces are on the second level, what was the former ground-level apartment can either become a family/media room or guest suite. Booth’s refresh included updating the kitchen and baths, replacing all the old flooring, putting in a new roof, and installing energy-efficient windows.