The castle miniatures are gone. The whimsical folk-art sculptures that stood in the front and rear yards of the house at 1001 Dunlop Ave. since 1927 were dismantled by contractors and thrown in a dumpster. But the Historical Society of Forest Park has rescued some iron-work from the property’s fence, said Executive Director Diane Hansen Grah.
The house at the corner of Harvard and Dunlop is being remodeled by Invitation Homes. The company bought the property last summer.
The castles were created by Frances Wegrzyn Kitcheos, a Polish immigrant, widowed in her 30s with four children.
“Chips of stone were turned into fairy castles,” wrote her daughter Angela in a tribute to her mother. “The soul of an artist made these things.”
Kitcheos created four castles, made of concrete decorated with chips of stone. Her daughter said they were a way to mourn her deceased husband and create a memory of the castles of Europe. The family decorated the castles for Christmas and Halloween. Three of the four castles survived until last week.
“This is terrible,” said Historical Society of Forest Park Executive Director Diane Hansen Grah. “It’s a tragedy; another piece of lost Forest Park history in the dumpster.”
Grah worked with contractors to recover a piece of wroght-iron work from the property’s fence.
Kitcheos created the wrought-iron gate spelling the name of her son, a paratrooper who was killed in 1944 around D-Day by a shell to his fox hole. She spelled the word “Alexander” in loopy decorative script. The gate has not been torn out – yet – by remodelers. Another son, Julian, died after a being paralyzed in a football injury at Proviso East High School.
Grah spoke to construction workers on the site and acquired the “Alexander” railing for the historical society, she said.
The house had only two owners in 90 years. The Patera family purchased the house in 1963 and patriarch Salvatore loved the back yard pond and castles and vowed he would never tear them down.
The magical backyard was the scene of many family parties, said Patera’s daughter, Deborah Ballauer, of Plainfield. She said the family sold the house after mother Gloria died in 2005 and it had been on the market for six years.
“I can’t even drive past the house anymore,” Ballauer told the Review last year. “It was so magical.”