List Price: $2,099,000
Sale Price: $1,975,000
The Property: It’s only four years old, but with its low arches, brick corner quoining, and hefty, detailed chimney, this ten-room home in Lake Forest looks as if it might have been plucked out of the English countryside a century ago. That’s what makes it so well suited to its surroundings, a hilltop neighborhood of about 50 gentry homes that overlook one of the prettiest pieces of countryside on the North Shore, the prairies and savannahs of a former Armour family farm.
The architect and homebuilder Scott Streightiff built the picturesque house in 2004 for Frank and Susan Witthun (he’s an insurance executive). They installed “finishes that were extraordinarily high-end,” says Nancy Adelman, the couple’s agent on the recent sale of the house. Those included detailed crown moldings, plasterwork in the dining room ceiling, and a walled patio. The house has ten rooms, three-plus baths, and a superb kitchen with a big mahogany island.
The neighborhood, known as Middlefork Farms, shares the old 128-acre farm’s hilltop area with some majestic oak trees that were preserved as a picnic grove by the farm’s original owners, the meatpacker A. Watson Armour (a descendant of Philip D. Armour) and his wife, Elsa. They started the farm—known originally as Elawa, which combined parts of the couple’s names—in 1917, in what was then the rural western part of Lake Forest near the gentlemen farms of another branch of the family and an Armour executive. But the couple never built the mammoth country home they originally planned, living instead in two expanded gatehouses connected by a tunnel.
Below the hilltop, along the floodplain of the Middle Fork of the North Branch of the Chicago River, lies a broad sweep of wetlands, prairies, and savannah. Some parts of it were used as farmland but have been restored meticulously by Lake Forest Openlands, the Lake County Forest Preserve District, and numerous volunteers. Also on the low land is a cluster of charming red brick Elawa farm buildings, now restored. While the open space, accessed by three-and-a-half miles of trails, is public, it’s an integral part of the appeal of the homes that share the old Elawa property. In fact, on top of the usual transfer taxes, the buyers of this house will pay a special Middlefork transfer tax of $2.50 per $1,000 in sale value, or $4,937.50, which goes toward maintaining some of the common land.
Price Points: Adelman says that she expected the house to sell for much more, considering that eight others in the neighborhood have sold for more than $2 million, according to the records of Midwest Real Estate Data, the comprehensive listing service for northern Illinois. The priciest of those homes went for $2.985 million, but that one sold in March 2007, before the real-estate market soured. This house went on the market in January, with an asking price of $2.25 million; that was later cut to $2.099 million. In March a contract was struck (with buyers whose names have not yet appeared in public records), and the deal closed Wednesday, April 16th.
Listing Agent: Nancy Adelman of Koenig & Strey GMAC, (847) 234-8400