Machine operator Don Bennett pulls down the remaining wall of 1243 Chicago Avenue on Wednesday. Credit: Richard Cahan

The front wall of the curious little store at 1243 Chicago Ave. just south of Evanston SPACE, was razed on Thursday. But the building is not gone forever. A large percentage of the material that went into the store will be recycled.

Over the last several months, the building, which most recently housed Interiors Et Cetera and Another Time Another Place Antiques, was carefully taken apart. A crew of laborers removed plaster, drywall, lath, a hardwood floor, metal kitchen appliances, bathtubs, doors and windows, the back stairs and roof.

The tear down was by Recyclean, a 10-year-old Kenosha, Wis.-based demolition contractor that is starting to work with other Evanston property owners. Instead of hauling items to a landfill, the company trucks most of the material to a non-profit recycling center in Kenosha. An appraiser estimates the value of the reusable building material and the owner gets a tax credit for donating it.

Concrete is ground up and used for new roads. Vintage Chicago brick is resold or ground up and lumber is sold by the non-profit on the open market.

The store at 1243 Chicago Ave. years before it was torn down. Credit: Evanston History Center

The process takes longer because material needs to be removed and handled more carefully, said Mike Laidley, partner in Recyclean. “We take down most of a building by hand,” he said. Traditional demolition is cheaper, but he says the tax benefit to the property owners helps them recoup the difference and do what is more environmentally responsible.

“We tell them, ‘Have your accountant look at this.’ They usually come back and agree,” he said.

The Chicago Avenue property was originally a house, likely built in the 1890s, according to Grace Lehner, director of archives and administration at the Evanston History Center. It was the home and office of Dr. Henry B. Hemenway in the early part of the 20th century. After World War II the house was divided into four separate apartments with stores and offices. During the 1960s it was the headquarters of W.F. Roehm Co., which sold boat interiors. At some point, the lannon stone front exterior was built.

There is at least one other company, Blue Earth Deconstruction, that does this kind of work.

Recyclean is looking for any kind of building to deconstruct. “Even blighted buildings have beautiful lumber inside,” Laidley said. “Beams are worth a lot of money.” The biggest thing that matters is the size of the house. Bigger is better because it contains more material.

Richard Cahan

Richard Cahan takes photos for the Evanston RoundTable. He also is publisher of CityFiles Press, a small but mighty media company that believes in the power of words and pictures. You can reach him at...

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  1. Thanks very much for this story. I’ll also “up-vote” both previous comments I see here. I think deconstruction should be the default option for nearly all buildings. It should not be rare. The more businesses which are involved with this, the better.
    Unfortunately, when I see news stories of all the destruction Russia is causing in Ukraine, one thought that goes through my mind is the opportunities presented – for the rebuilding phase for Ukraine – for recycling and re-use of most of the debris, including masonry, wood, and metal.
    Do Americans have the same thoughts when seeing the debris resulting here from wildfires in the West, and floods in more southern places like Missouri and Kentucky? We should put as much of this “debris” as possible to its highest and best uses, both to protect the Earth, and to minimize landfilling.

  2. The local nonprofit Evanston Rebuilding Warehouse also provides deconstruction services and diverts more than 1800 tons of building materials from landfills every year. The materials are also kept locally vs trucked up to Kenosha.

    Our services are also part of our workforce training program, which serves folks overcoming barriers to employment to start building trades careers. Participants in our program are paid, learn, and gain work experience on our deconstruction sites. Many of our participants are Evanston residents.

    One can learn more at