Historic preservation

River Forest is an historic community committed to protecting, preserving and promoting its rich heritage. Structures in River Forest include historical styles such as Gothic Revival, Victoria, Prairie School, Tudor Revival, Bungalows, Buurma Built, Art Deco, and Moderne.  Some of these homes were designed by architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright, William Drummond, Spencer and Powers, E.E. Roberts, and their contemporaries.

515 Auvergne: William Winslow House and Stables, by Frank Lloyd Wright

515 Auvergne: William Winslow House and Stables, by Frank Lloyd Wright

See below for additional information regarding historic preservation including:

Historic Preservation Ordinance

The Village's Historic Preservation Ordinance established the Historic Preservation Commission, which identifies the landmark designation and certificate of appropriateness process, and requires the review of Significant Properties for which repair, rehab, reconstruction, restoration, or demolition is proposed prior to the approval of a permit. 

View the Historic Preservation Ordinance.

Significant Properties

The Historic Preservation Commission has designated 298 homes as Significant Properties. Any construction work on these properties must be reviewed by the Historic Preservation Commission. While the Commission cannot prevent construction or alter proposed plans, the Commission has 30 days to review the application (7 days in the case of windows) and make recommendations in order to preserve the historical and architectural significance of the property and neighborhood.  The property owner is required to meet with the Commission. Prior to having work done, check if your home is on the significant property list. 

Building permits for Significant Properties 

In accordance with Section 13-1-7 of the Village Code, no repair, rehabilitation, reconstruction, restoration, demolition, improvement or signage involving more than 20% of any individual street facade or any window replacement of a facade viewable from the street of any significant property will be initiated, nor will any building, window, or demolition permits be issued for such work, until the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) is notified of the proposed work, including a description of the scope of work, and the conditions below are met.  Said 20% is based on the total footprint of any street facade viewable from the street as measured in linear feet. 

The Historic Preservation Commission has 30 days from the submission of a complete building permit application or both architectural elevations and a foundation plan, whichever is earlier, to review the proposed work.  The Historic Preservation has 7 days from the submission of a complete building permit application for windows to review the proposed work.  In the event the Commission does not meet within the review period, a subcommittee will review the work. During the review period, the Commission will advise the applicant of any recommendations it has regarding the proposed work. These meetings are open to the public and the property owner is required to attend.  The recommendations of the Commission are advisory, are not binding and the proposed work may proceed once the review period has expired or the Commission's recommendations have been received, whichever comes first.  

In the case of a demolition permit, within 60 days of the filing of a complete application, a public hearing will be held by the HPC. Notice of the hearing summarizing the application must be published not less than 15 and not more than 30 days in advance of the hearing in a local newspaper.  The notice must also be sent via certified mail (return receipt requested) by the applicant to all property owners within 500 feet of the subject property at least 15 days before the hearing.  The Village will, at the applicant's cost, post a sign in front of the subject building 15 days before the hearing. The Commission will review all evidence and make a determination whether to issue a certificate of appropriateness or to withhold it and issue a certificate of demolition delay for a period of not more than six months following the filing of an application of an application for a demolition permit to allow for the exploration of alternatives to demolition.

518 Keystone: Solomon Thatcher Jr. House, Architect Unknown

518 Keystone: Solomon Thatcher Jr. House, Architect Unknown

Landmark Properties

Below are documents outlining the landmark designation process.

Building permits for Landmark Properties

Repair, rehabilitation, reconstruction, restoration, demolition, improvement or signage involving more than 20% of any individual street facade or any window replacement of a street facade requires a certificate of appropriateness. Please review the Historic Preservation Ordinance for definitions, construction and design standards, additional provisions and information regarding economic hardship waivers.  The Commission has 30 days from the submission of a complete application to review the proposed work (7 days in the case of windows).  A complete application includes:

  1. The applicant's name or the owner's name if different from the applicant;
  2. Street address and legal description of the site;
  3. A site plan and front, side and rear elevation drawings;
  4. A brief description and photographs (both current and historic, if available) of the structure(s), building(s), and landscape features on the site;
  5. A detailed description of the proposed alteration or demolition, together with pictorial renditions indicating how and to what extent such proposed changes will affect the subject property;
  6. Identification of any architect or developer involved in the project;
  7. Such other relevant information as requested by the Village Administrator or as the Commission may require

In the case of a demolition permit, within 60 days of the filing of a complete application, a public hearing will be held by the HPC.  Notice of the hearing summarizing the application must be published not less than 15 and not more than 30 days in advance of the hearing in a local newspaper.  The notice must also be sent via certified mail (return receipt requested) by the applicant to all property owners within 500 feet of the subject property at least 15 days before the hearing.  The Village will, at the applicant's cost, post a sign in front of the subject building 15 days before the hearing.  The Commission will review all evidence and determine whether to issue a certificate of appropriateness or to withhold it and issue a certificate of demolition delay for a period of not more than six months following the filing of an application of an application for a demolition permit to allow for the exploration of alternatives to demolition.

Questions?  Please contact the Village Hall for more information.

Historic District

River Forest has a locally established historic district. The district stretches irregularly from the east at Harlem Avenue to the west at the Des Plaines River and from Division Street to the north to Washington Boulevard and comprises approximately 860 properties.

555 Edgewood: Ben Badenough House, by William Drummond

555 Edgewood: Ben Badenough House, by William Drummond

VIew the Historic District Map

Financial Incentives

There are a variety of federal, state and local financial incentives available to property owners who renovate in a historically sensitive manner. View the financial incentives for more information about the programs available.  

Historic Preservation Award 

The River Forest Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) supports and encourages homeowners, builders and other professionals who help preserve the historic character of our Village. An awards program was established by the Commission in 2009 in order to support these efforts, and the HPC is currently accepting applications for the 2017 Historic Preservation Awards.  Nominations must be received on or before May 26, 2017. View more information and complete the nomination form

Historic Preservation Survey

The Historic Preservation Commission has completed an architectural and historical survey of the community. To learn more about the survey, refer to the following:

Historic Preservation Resources