As head of CH Ventures, LLC, in Chicagoland, Cameel Halim has pursued numerous development projects that involved the value-driven restoration and rehabilitation of historic buildings. Cameel Halim was featured in a 2006 Chicago Sun-Times article that focused on his and his daughter Nefrette’s successful efforts to save the Skiff Home on 157 Kenilworth, in a storied northern suburb of Chicago.
The late 19th century prairie-style home was envisioned by Daniel Burnham, a well-known local architect who was director of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition and creator of the Chicago Plan. Unfortunately, a wave of knock downs of historic Kenilworth homes was gaining momentum and the Skiff Home was undergoing a pre-demolition sell-off auction organized by a local developer. This involved the sale of moldings, doorknobs, and even staircase banisters.
The residence was saved at the last hour, as pressure from Citizens for Kenilworth caused the developer to reconsider her plans and agree to negotiate the sale of the Arts & Crafts home to Mr. Halim. The sale was a small victory, considering the larger issue in which Kenilworth civic leaders were unwilling to institute the landmark and historic district ordinances set in place by neighborhoods such as Lake Forest, claiming that they impinged on property owners’ rights.
CH Ventures, LLC
Based in Wilmette, Illinois, Cameel Halim guides CH Ventures, LLC, and maintains a focus on projects that improve Chicago’s diverse neighborhoods. A 1982 article in the Chicago Tribune brought focus to Cameel Halim’s unique approach to real estate and his commitment to rehabilitation in areas that suffered from a poor image and were difficult to develop in.
One such thoroughfare was Kenmore Avenue, which runs through the Edgewater and Uptown neighborhoods and had many gang-controlled buildings. Looking beyond the area’s reputation, Mr. Halim personally connected with an Edgewater Community Council member and learned about the efforts that were underway to make the area a better place to live.
Focusing on the integrity of the neighborhood, Mr. Halim’s team undertook a painstaking restoration process that brought the common-corridor buildings back to structural soundness while maintaining historic exteriors. Original bathroom fixtures were kept, while woodwork, landscaping, and parquet floors were replaced and rehabilitated. The newly remodeled apartments were rented out at reasonable rates, which reflected the low price of the original acquisition, not the quality of the units.
Halim Time and Glass Museum
A real estate investor for over four decades, Cameel Halim serves as president of CH Ventures LLC. A timepiece collector, Cameel Halim has a collection of over 600 clocks and 200 pocket watches on display at the Halim Time and Glass Museum.
The museum showcases ancient timepieces from different periods in history, most dating prior to 1800. Objects on display include a rare elephant clock from the 17th century, which features a man tied to a tree. Every hour, the man is circled by a lion and a leopard, signifying the “death of the hour.”
Other clocks that stand out include an English skeleton clock enclosed in a glass dome that was shattered during World War II, when the Germans bombed London. The dome has since been glued back together. Another English clock keeps time as a marble zigzags along a track every 30 seconds.
Men and Wristwatches
Since he began buying properties with his wife in 1974, Cameel Halim has become a respected real estate presence in Chicago, where he oversees the operations of CH Ventures, LLC. A watch and timepiece enthusiast, Cameel Halim has been collecting vintage and antique watches for decades, many of which are showcased in his Halim Time and Glass Museum in Evanston, Illinois.
Throughout much of history, wristwatches were specifically created for and worn by women. This tradition began in 1571, when England’s Queen Elizabeth I was gifted an “arm watch” by Robert Dudley. The watch design became known as a wristlet. It was small, delicate, and was worn by noblewomen. Men viewed such watches as inappropriate for their sex, and carried pocket watches instead. This preference would go on for centuries.
Everything changed, beginning with the wars of the 20th century. During the Boer War of 1899-1902 and World War I, pocket watches proved an inconvenience in the air, on the water, and in the trenches. Soldiers were given wrist watches, which were basically pocket watches attached to leather straps that wrapped around the wrist, to help them coordinate with military movements during attacks. These wristwatches became the watches of choice for service men in all wars in the early 20th century. When the guns fell silent, thousands of men returned home with wristwatches, turning them into an accepted everyday accessory.
With more than 40 years of experience buying, renovating, and selling properties, Cameel Halim serves as president of CH Ventures, LLC, a real estate development company he runs with his wife in Wilmette, Illinois. Of his many projects, Cameel Halim works to save historic homes from demolition. One of these properties was in the Chicago suburb of Kenilworth.
Mr. Halim’s daughter, as part of her position in the community group Citizens for Kenilworth, led the charge to keep the Skiff Home, designed by the firm of famed architect Daniel Burnham, from demolition. After many years in real estate, Mr. Halim began his foray into this form of activism in response to his daughter’s passion to save the property. He previously had hoped to purchase the 1908 dwelling, but found the asking price of more than 2 million dollars too great. It was when he saw his daughter’s despair at the high likelihood that the property would be razed that he took steps to save the home, which was accomplished less than a week out from the set demolition date.
Cameel Halim is a respected presence in the Chicago real estate sphere who has overseen numerous development projects that achieved urban restoration goals. Cameel Halim is currently in the process of launching the Halim Time & Glass Museum. The museum features glass pieces by noted manufacturers such as Thomas Webb & Son, as well as antique timepieces.
The pocket watch has its origins in the early 15th century, when a coiled spring was invented in Germany as a way of increasing functionality in locks. The spring quickly crossed over to the clockmaking sphere, as it allowed a device to be wound in ways that stored energy for release over an extended period.
While the main spring enabled the creation of clocks small enough to fit in the hand, it did not solve the issue of a movement that ran at a constant rate as the spring wound down. With the “Nuremberg Egg,” an egg-sized timepiece introduced around 1530, for decades time deviations each day were measured in the hours, rather than in minutes.
This all changed in 1675 with Christiaan Huygens’ invention of the “hair spring” or “balance wheel” mechanism, which absorbed energy output from the main-spring and released it at a constant rate that ultimately allowed the creation of minute hands.
Cameel Halim, a civil engineering graduate of Cairo University, is the president of CH Ventures, LLC, in Wilmette, Illinois, and owner of the Halim Time and Glass Museum in Evanston. Beyond his professional activities, Cameel Halim enjoys engaging with the local community, once saving a local historic home from demolition.
In 2005, a historic Chicago-area home was stripped of windows, appliances, and other vintage fixtures before property developer Antoinette Vigilante put the building up for sale. Vigilante had considered demolishing the building at 157 Kenilworth Avenue, which was designed by renowned Chicago architect Daniel H. Burnham, though this possible outcome was met with considerable outcry from preservationists and the local public. Kenilworth has no laws governing the preservation of historical landmarks; however, the town was able to delay demolition for more than half a year.
Mr. Halim ultimately purchased the house for $2.35 million. The sale represented a collaboration between Halim and Vigilante, who sold the property at a considerable loss, and was made possible thanks to the village of Kenilworth, which worked to reimburse Vigilante for between $40,000 and $50,000 in fees. The sale was recognized with a small celebration at the home by citizens and preservationists.