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The House That Biscuits Built

This Kenwood mansion, constructed for bread magnate David Bremner, sits down the block from the Obamas’ house.

Photos: VISHome

As the Bremner Biscuit Company tells it, David F. Bremner moved his bread business from Cairo, Illinois, to Chicago in 1871 to feed the city following the Great Fire. Bremner eventually became president of the American Biscuit and Manufacturing Company, one of the entities that merged to form Nabisco in 1898.

Perhaps due to that success, the biscuit magnate hired the architectural team of Horatio Wilson and Benjamin Marshall to build a mansion for his family in Kenwood the following year. (Marshall went on to codesign the Drake Hotel.) The brick Colonial, with its nine-bedroom main residence and five-bedroom coach house, was recently listed for $2.35 million.

Dining room

The 11,000-square-foot main house, at 5001 South Greenwood Avenue, includes a 44-by-26-foot rec room on the third floor, as well as a library. “Somebody coming from the North Side may be stunned at how huge the house is,” says KoenigRubloff agent Shirley Walker. She’s listing the property for the Archdiocese of Chicago, which purchased it in 1966. The house had been used by one of the Catholic Church’s lay ministries. But in recent years, the archdiocese has been selling off some of its vast real estate holdings to redirect resources to its core mission.

The property is full of vintage details. At the center of the first-floor foyer, a circular ceiling cutout leads all the way up to a skylight. On the second floor, that opening is surrounded by an ornate metal railing. The flip side to a 120-year-old house full of original touches? The kitchen and bathrooms have never been renovated — and there’s no central air.

First-floor foyer

The home sits on a manse-filled street near the University of Chicago. Wilson and Marshall also built the house next door, No. 5009, in 1899 for Bremner’s son and his wife. Down the same block, you’ll spot No. 5046, constructed in the 1910s — and purchased in 2005 by an upwardly mobile couple named Barack and Michelle Obama.

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