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Simons v. Work of God Corp.

JUNE 4, 1962.

JEROME SIMONS, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES,

v.

WORK OF GOD CORPORATION, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. DANIEL A. ROBERTS, Judge, presiding. Affirmed.

MR. JUSTICE BURMAN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT.

Rehearing denied July 30, 1962.

The sole question presented by this appeal is whether the Circuit Court correctly construed a restrictive land covenant appearing in defendant's deed. The decree of the trial court permanently enjoined defendant from using its residence at 854 Castlewood Terrace, Chicago, "for any purpose other than the residence of one single family consisting only of persons related each to the others by blood or marriage and keeping house as one single housekeeping unit."

Defendant is an Illinois not-for-profit eleemosynary corporation whose purpose is "to foster religious and cultural development of men and women; to teach the application of Christian principles to everyday life; to promote Christian morals and benevolence." Pursuant to this corporate purpose defendant purchased several residences in Chicago and furnishes residential and other facilities to members of Opus Dei, a secular institute of the Roman Catholic Church whose members dedicate their lives to God by seeking professional perfection in the modern world. On December 22, 1958, defendant purchased the house and lot at 854 Castlewood Terrace for $36,000. Five members of Opus Dei occupy the residence as their home: two are accountants, two are priests, and one a retired physicist.

In 1896 certain negative reciprocal covenants were imposed by deed upon the purchasers of the lots facing Castlewood Terrace. Those covenants appear in defendant's deed and read, in part, as follows:

3. That not more than one building to be used for a dwelling shall at any time be erected or maintained upon the lot above described.

4. That no apartment or flat-building or structure built, used or adapted for the separate housekeeping of more than one family shall at any time be built or maintained upon said lot. (Emphasis added.)

Twelve resident property-owners in the Castlewood subdivision filed a complaint alleging that defendant, with knowledge of the covenants, was occupying the premises for the use and promotion of its religious activities in violation of the restrictions. The issues were submitted to the trial court on stipulation that all issues were to be determined on the pleadings, documents, photographs, depositions, briefs and oral argument.

Castlewood subdivision is bounded on the west by Sheridan Road, on the east by Marine Drive (formerly by Lake Michigan), on the north by Ainslie Street, and on the south by Gunnison Street (formerly LaFayette Parkway). Castlewood Terrace is a public street bisecting the subdivision in an east-west direction from Sheridan Road to Marine Drive. No north-south streets run through the subdivision. Twenty-one lots, each 50 feet in width, face each side of Castlewood Terrace.

It was stipulated at trial that the validity of the covenants in this subdivision has been upheld in Cuneo v. Chicago Title & Trust Co., 337 Ill. 589, 169 N.E. 760; Kruetgen v. General Outdoor Advertising Co., 288 Ill. App. 619, 6 N.E.2d 469; and Circuit Court of Cook County cases Kruetgen v. Hyde, No. 40C7967; and Miles et al. v. Northern Trust Co., No. 49C8640.

It was further stipulated that none of the five persons residing in defendant's house is related by blood, marriage or any degree of kinship to any of the other of said five persons. Attached to the stipulation were photographs of plaintiffs' homes, a statement of their values, and description of their use.

The Chancellor's decree, entered on July 14th, 1960, stated that the use of the property "is limited to one building to be used as a dwelling, containing only one housekeeping unit used by only a single family." Holding that the five members of Opus Dei "are not a `family' as that word is used in said restrictive covenants," the decree enjoined defendant in the manner above mentioned.

Defendant argues initially that the entire purpose of the fourth restriction is to prevent the erection of, or the conversion of a single housekeeping unit building to, a building containing multiple housekeeping and living units. Our attention is called to Cuneo v. Chicago Title & Trust Co., 337 Ill. 589, 598, 169 N.E. 760, where it is stated:

The evident purpose of these restrictions on the property abutting on Castlewood Terrace . . . was and is to preserve the lots facing on Castlewood Terrace as a residence district.

Pointing out that it maintains only a single housekeeping unit, used solely for residence purposes, defendant contends that there as been no violation of the restriction.

We cannot take so limited a view of the fourth restriction. Defendant's interpretation would require us to consider the phrase "of more than one family" as meaningless superfluity. Neither the rules of construction nor the clear intent of the creator of the restrictions will permit us so to do. Our courts have often employed the maxim that in the construction of deeds effect must be given, if possible, to every clause and word used by the parties. (Woods v. Seymour, 350 Ill. 493, 183 N.E. 458; Shell Oil Co., Inc. v. Moore, 382 Ill. 556, 560, 48 N.E.2d 400.) No term employed, in the absence of conflicting recitals and if consistent with law and public policy, may be rejected as meaningless or surplusage. (Henry v. Metz, 382 Ill. 297, 300, 46 N.E.2d 945.)

[2-4] Had the parties to the restriction intended the meaning advanced by defendant it seems that the fourth restriction would have been drafted to read something like "no apartment or flat-building or structure built, used or adapted for more than one housekeeping or living unit. . . ." Instead, the limitation was very carefully drawn in terms of "the separate housekeeping of more than one family." We think the fundamental purpose of this restriction is, first, to ...


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