Objections to Pritzker bed and breakfast ignore track record

Staff Writer

Although Kenwood residents recently objected to a plan that would restore two aging Frank Lloyd Wright houses and turn them into a bed-and-breakfast, there have been B&Bs in the neighborhood for years. Many people at a 4th Ward meeting last month complained that a B&B would be a commercial enterprise on a residential street.

Hyde Park has a handful of B&Bs and short-term leases available in homes and apartments and many are operating in residential neighborhoods.

Susan Kossiakoff opened Hutchins House, 4810 S. Ellis Ave., in 2003. While they never advertised the B&B outside of the University of Chicago community, Kossiakoff said she has never wanted for guests.

“A lot of guests did not want to stay downtown, they wanted to get — particularly if they were being recruited by a (U. of C.) department — they wanted to get a sense of the community,” Kossiakoff said. “I know at least three of the people that stayed here who eventually bought homes in Kenwood.”

She and her husband, Tony, bought the three-story, red brick house in 1998. Before it was a house, the building was St. George’s School for Girls, so it already had zoning that allowed a B&B.

Tony Kossiakoff, who is a professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics at U. of C., offered the third floor of the home to guests visiting the university.

“We really felt a mission to try to keep the rooms open for the U. of C.-affiliated people,” Susan Kossiakoff said. “We didn’t want to expand into the city and have a greater network.”

Susan Kossiakoff said in the years they operated Hutchins House they hosted winners of Nobels and Pulitzers, film directors, authors, parents visiting students and people being courted by the university. Graduation weekends are booked four years in advance.

She and her husband are slowing down the business, to give them more time to visit their children who live overseas, but they still host guests.

“What [the business] has allowed us to do is to really restore this house and this garden,” Susan Kossiakoff said. “We’ve basically put the money back into the house.”

When they first began hosting guests, she said, cab drivers told guests that a B&B would never operate on the South Side of Chicago. In the decade since Hutchins House has been open, that isn’t a refrain guests hear anymore.

Susan Kosiakoff said she never heard any objections from her neighbors about a business operating in a residential neighborhood.

Tyra Taylor is the innkeeper at The Abode, 5412 S. Blackstone Ave., a business she’s operated since 2006. When she first opened up she had short-term leases and overnight guests, but national B&B regulations changed and her focus is now on longer-term leases.

“I haven’t been keeping track of all the continents but I would bet I’ve had somebody from every continent [stay here],” Taylor said.

Taylor said she had never heard any complaints from the neighbors that visitors created a disturbance.

Barbara Engel, who lives across the street from The Abode, said having a B&B on Blackstone Avenue improved the street and she has never had a problem with guests.

“I just really think [Taylor] would be very amenable if there was something [negative] happening but I just haven’t seen it,” Engel said. “It was never wildly busy, it didn’t feel like it interrupted the homey aspect of the block where people say ‘hi’ to each other and I do value that. It was just one house that had a couple of rooms. It wasn’t different than having any of our neighbors have friends over.”

For seven years, Peter and Paula Schuler ran University Quarters, a 1917-built greystone at 6137 S. Kimbark Ave. The Schulers eventually closed the business when they moved to Minnesota.

“There was a need and it worked out very well for us,” Paula Schuler said. “We were busy from the moment we opened our doors to the moment we closed.”

The bulk of their business came from university-affiliates, she said. Either visiting faculty or parents, usually. Most other people were tourists who visited Hyde Park during the summer.

Like Hutchins House, Paula Schuler said she never heard any complaints from the neighborhood.

“A lot of them didn’t even know there was a B&B there,” Paula Schuler said. “But we never had any complaints.”