It’s not every day a house in town turns 150, and the anniversary was a great excuse to bring the neighbors together to celebrate.

Sarah Hess and her dog, Luna. Credit: Anna Cillan

 That is just what owner Sarah Hess did. After taking on an extensive two-year rehabilitation, the Hess House was ready for company. 

The house on Lathrop was built before the village of Harlem was incorporated, when Ulysses S. Grant was president, and the prairie dominated the landscape.  The home, purchased in 2021, was in need of a caregiver that would breathe new life into the old home.

The multi-unit building was like a unicorn; it ticked all the boxes of what owner Hess was looking for – three units, close to public transportation, has a guest room and in a great community. The unicorn would bring many surprising twists and turns along the renovation journey. The property would need new plumbing, electrical work, and what would be its first layer of insulation to make it a home ready for this century. 

Those were not the only surprises during the rehabilitation, Hess said. 

“When our contractor peeled the linoleum up from the basement floor, it revealed hardwood floor that was sitting directly on dirt,” she said.

“We just stood there, face to face with the dirt that the house was built on in 1873.”

Over the months of overhauling the house, family and friends have been at Hess’ side, especially her trusted canine, Luna. Keen on meeting the neighbors and making friends, Luna has been key to striking conversations along the block. Many of Luna’s friends were ready to pay tribute to the progress made just in time for the sesquicentennial that Hess hosted Sept. 9. 

In meeting neighbors, and swapping stories, Hess has started to peel back the layers of history and learn the lives of people who called this home. 

So far, she has discovered this was once the home to a carpenter, a tinner and a young man who served in the Second World War. One neighbor, who is in his 80’s, and lived in the area his whole life, said he believes the house was the index house of the block, and the original family had an orchard. There has been one very special coincidence discovered from a 1947 Chicago Tribune classified ad. It read, “DOG lost- White female, short hair, black spot on back, black ears” – an uncanny coincidence because that could describe Luna, too.

Sarah’s goal of creating the balance between a home that is both calming and energizing have found a welcoming place to build the next chapter in their lives and in the life of house on Lathrop.