Edo Belli, an architect of dozens of modernist Catholic churches, schools and hospitals in Chicago and across the country, designed the house for nearby St. William parish, which would raffle it off to fund construction of some of its own buildings. Belli designed those as well, a rare quartet of modernist structures that occupies all four corners at the intersection of Sayre and Wrightwood avenues.
The house, six blocks from the church campus, is “not only a piece of architecture, it’s an important piece of community history,” said Lisa DiChiera, director of advocacy for Landmarks Illinois, which is supporting the nomination. The building is being presented to the Commission on Chicago Landmarks for preliminary landmark designation, the first step in a process that would culminate in approval of landmark status by the City Council.
In the early 1950s, population was growing in the neighborhood around already-established St. William Church, and according to several historical newspaper articles, its pastor, Rev. Frank Cieselski, wanted to build a modern “campus” at the four corners, including a church, a new school building, a rectory and a convent. Part of his means of funding the ambitious project would be a raffle of a new house.
Belli and his engineer brother Anthony, partners in Belli & Belli, were going to do the campus, so Cieselski tapped them to design the house as well, about six blocks south. Cieselski wanted the house to look futuristic and be eye-catching enough to attract international publicity to the raffle, according to a 1972 Chicago News Journal article about the house.