Chicago’s master modernists, Frank Lloyd Wright and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, produced nearly as many protégés as buildings. Houses conceived by two of the more prominent ones—Wright disciple Walter Burley Griffin and Mies man H.P. Davis “Deever” Rockwell—recently hit the market with price tags just north of $600,000. The Griffin house, at 5917 North Magnolia Avenue in Edgewater, pays homage to early Prairie style, while Rockwell’s House on a Bluff, at 20841 Oak Lane Drive in south suburban Olympia Fields, draws on the beautifully spare engineering of Mies van der Rohe’s famous glass-walled Farnsworth House.
The prolific Griffin designed the Edgewater house in 1908 as part of a mirror-image pair of properties on opposite sides of a concrete walk. James Twist has owned the 1,710-square-foot house since 2011. He grew up two doors down, and as an adult, he did handyman work for the previous owners. They left him the property in their will. (Note to self: Start moonlighting as a handyman.)
The three-bedroom residence, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, listed in June for $625,000. It has an open floor plan, and much of the cabinetry and woodwork is original. “When strangers come by and say how great it must be to live here, it really drives home the architectural significance,” Twist says. But the house is not without intrusions from other eras: In the 1950s, glass block windows were added to two bedrooms, the dining room, and a stairwell.
In Olympia Fields, Rockwell himself lived in the four-bedroom House on a Bluff until 2006. With floor-to-ceiling windows on every side, it’s like a human-size terrarium, but the concealed lower-level bedrooms afford some privacy. And there’s no need to fear peeping Toms in this secluded location on a two-and-a-half-acre wooded lot. “It’s weird being enclosed in this warm glass box in the depths of winter, but it’s what we’ve appreciated most about the house,” says owner Kim Valles. She bought the home from Rockwell, who died last year.
The $619,000 listing price is more than reasonable for a 3,600-square-foot residence with a notable architectural pedigree, plus recent upgrades to the master bathroom, kitchen appliances, and landscape. But the property still has plenty of retro character thanks to terrazzo floors and a concrete patio. And the fact that it’s, you know, a glass house.
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