Early Oak Park Developer’s Home Sells Quickly
List Price: $890,000
Sale Price: $840,000
The Property: This substantial Victorian, built in 1906 for a man whose family construction business developed large swaths of homes in Oak Park and the Far West Side of Chicago, sold in just 15 days this May. The sale closed July 28.
From the 1880s through the 1920s, S.T. Gunderson and Sons built several hundred houses and two-flats. In the early 1900s, the ‘sons’ in the business, George and Seward, planted themselves in a pair of large, handsome homes at the corner of Jackson Boulevard and Elmwood Street in Oak Park, in the center of what would become eight blocks of big, inviting Victorians that helped establish the suburb as a prosperous middle-class town.
This home belonged to Seward Gunderson. Toni Horras, who with her husband, Roy, lived here from 1992 until they sold it last week, says that oral histories say the brothers cohosted parties in their homes’ third-floor ballrooms. Guests would leave dinner in one house and walk under a rented canopy across the street to the other house for dancing.
The house across the street was the home of George Gunderson, Seward's brother and colleague.
The ballroom in this home is capacious, as you can see in the listing photos, and its built-in benches remain intact. The dining room has a beamed ceiling and art glass in a window. A large enclosed porch forms the front of the five-bedroom house, and a huge yard sits in the back.
When the Horrases bought the home 19 years ago, what they believe was the original stove still sat in the kitchen. They renovated the three and a half bathrooms and created an all-new kitchen in what had been a dining area. The old kitchen became a breakfast room with French doors to the yard. They also upgraded mechanical systems, the roof, the front steps, and other items. Throughout, they tried to maintain the home’s traditional look, but there was one tradition they broke: While the two families that owned the home before them each had ten children, “we stopped at four,” Toni told me.
The youngest of the four is entering the final year of high school, so the Horrases—Roy is an emergency-room physician—are moving to a smaller home in Elmwood Park.
Price Points: The couple paid $260,000 for the house in 1992, according to the Cook County Recorder of Deeds. The price they listed it at this spring reflected the size and condition of the home and yard, says their agent, Trevor Good, “but we also thought there is value in the historical significance of the home.” Having bought many years before the housing bubble meant the couple didn't have emotional or practical attachment to a higher price; they didn’t have a boom-era value in their heads, Toni acknowledges.
Slightly more than two weeks later, the home went under contract at 94 percent of the list price to buyers who “were our ideal target,” Good says. “They appreciated the history.” (He did not identify them, and their names have not yet appeared in public records.) Toni Horras says the buyers are now installing air conditioning—an expensive project in an older home.