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780 Sq. Ft. Historic Old Town Chicago Cottage

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In the bustling metropolitan area of Old Town Chicago is this cute cottage. It’s home to David Hawkanson, executive director of the Steppenwolf Theater Company.

In early 2007, shortly after becoming the executive director, Hawkanson realized it was time to put down some roots in the town. With the help of a local real estate agent he found this cottage.

Having to downsize to fit in this small home Hawkanson soon realized his new home was also a historic tourist attraction.

In this particular area, Menomonee Street, only this cottage and one other like it still exist. Back in the fall of 1871, thousands of lives and homes were lost in the Great Chicago Fire that lasted for two days.

To help the city recover from this tragedy the Chicago Relief and Aid Society offered homeowners who lost their homes in the fire a prefab housing kit to reconstruct their houses at an affordable rate of $75-100 depending on the size they choose. Sometimes it was even given away for free.

Fast forward in time to 2002, the cottage has been updated with current modifications but has still kept its small size and charm. Hawkanson acquired the property in 2007 at a mid-six figure range.

Now the cottage is somewhat of a tourist attraction. For Hawkanson he has come to terms with the local tour guides to give him more privacy.

Hawkanson says, “I threatened to get out the garden hose”. It seems to have worked.

Please enjoy the photos below courtesy of the New York Times.

780 Sq. Ft. Historic Old Town Chicago Cottage


Images © Jane Beiles for The New York Times

780-Sq-Ft-Historic-Old-Town-Chicago-Cottage-002 780-Sq-Ft-Historic-Old-Town-Chicago-Cottage-003

Images © Jane Beiles for The New York Times


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Andrea is a contributor for TinyHouseTalk.com and the Tiny House Newsletter! She has a passion for sharing tiny and small house stories and introducing you to new people, ideas, and homes.
{ 9 comments… add one }
  • Cahow
    June 1, 2015, 11:28 am

    I love this house and pass it at least 3 times a week when we’re buzzing around Old Town! My friend actually did the landscape for the home, several years ago!

    There is another charming ‘tourist attraction’ cottage on Armitage and Howe. Also very, very wee and has kept it’s original footprint for over a 100 years.

    THANK YOU, Andrea, for finally featuring my Sweet Home, Chicago!

    • June 1, 2015, 11:41 am

      How cool! I’d love to go see it in person one day 🙂

      • Cahow
        June 1, 2015, 12:05 pm

        I hope that you get to see it, too, Andrea! “Old Town” is a very unique neighborhood where you can see EXACTLY WHY there is zoning laws in place in “newer” areas of Chicago…meaning AFTER the Great Fire. If the quirky lanes and homes benefit you, you LOVE it! But, if you want to build something else in that area, there’s no way that you’re allowed to do so. The area is filled with complete anomalies when you could build anything that you wanted to, including homes with NO ACCESS to safety with completely enclosed backyards with NO ESCAPE or access to the alley, parking, etc.

        Don’t get me wrong: they are cute, quirky and charming to look at but some of the Grandfathered “in” constructions boggle the mind!

  • Tammy
    June 1, 2015, 3:32 pm

    I love this house!!!!!!

  • Karen R
    June 1, 2015, 4:30 pm

    Love it!

  • Rich
    June 1, 2015, 5:27 pm

    Guess you’re saying Mrs Oleary didn’t live here then? HAHA

  • Mimi
    June 1, 2015, 6:10 pm

    I spent my childhood in Old Town & I loved it!!!
    It was ‘quirky’ & some of it’s closed offness leant to privacy which was often a difficult thing to find in Chicago.
    It was always nice to come home to a home, rather than an apartment!
    Not all my friends had that luxury 😉

  • dea
    June 2, 2015, 12:12 pm

    Cute! someone’s home is their home, and I don’t think anyone should be able to govern simply by the size…living elements maybe (ie, running water/water source, sustainable sanitation, and a way to cook your food)… codes for most are over rated and obsurd, I wouldn’t put my 20k house next to a 1m$ mansion just because I wouldn’t, I build my house for me not for someone else and certainly because it has “resale”. At some point $ isn’t worth anything and this is that point, some people clearly just don’t like to enjoy living for anything than someone else’s misery…(bankers)

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