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List Price: $700,000
The Property: Chicago’s William Le Baron Jenney is often called the father of the skyscraper. But at about the same time that he was working on the Ludington Building, one of the first high-rises with an all-steel frame, Jenney was also designing a handsome pair of three-story townhouses in the Buena Park neighborhood. The northern member of the pair, with its formal rooms and bedroom floors nicely rehabbed and preserved, went on the market in mid-July because its owner and steward for the past 18 years, John Horton, has retired.
Horton tells me that when he dropped into the place during an open house in 1994, he fell instantly in love. “It was absolutely beautiful,” he says, “and the [sellers] had done everything to make it move-in ready.” He put in an offer right away.
His listing agent, Karen Gilbert, says that Horton is being modest; he’s actually done quite a bit or work over the years to get the home to the historically rich state it’s in now. He finished the basement, installed a new roof, stripped layers of paint off much of the original trim, finished the basement, crafted Venetian plaster treatments in the formal rooms, and put in all new windows that meet today’s energy standards but preserve the vintage look.
One of the best improvements—made by a previous owner—was combining two formal rooms on the first floor into one larger living room. Now the space is not as tight as it was in its original 1891 layout, but it’s just as warm, with high ceilings, lots of period trim (including the two mantelpieces), and vintage wood floors.
Beyond them and a pair of tall wooden pocket doors lies the dining room, a large room whose woodwork, chandelier, and window bay evoke the home’s Victorian origins. Next to it is the kitchen, which was updated about 20 years ago; a new buyer will probably want to redo it.
Off the living room and foyer, the main staircase winds up two flights through the center of the house. On the second floor are two front bedrooms; down a short hallway is a third bedroom that would have been for a servant. One of the front bedrooms has been updated as a master with a bathroom made from former closet space. Another bedroom has space within the round bay. The interior doors on this level all have transoms with etched-glass images depicting the four seasons.
Another flight up is the original attic, now finished into two rooms: a sitting room and an office. The basement has another three rooms as well as the laundry space.
Behind the house are a little deck and a two-car garage. Beyond it are three parking pads beneath the el tracks, meaning there’s parking for five cars in all. The el tracks arrived after the house, but beyond them is an older neighbor, Graceland Cemetery. Residents of this house may feel a special connection to Graceland: Jenney’s wife is buried there, and his ashes were scattered over her grave.
Price Points: Horton bought the house in August 1994 for $230,000. Gilbert feels that his asking price is competitive on a per-square-foot basis, but in addition, he notes that the house is on an extra-wide lot (31 x 125, compared to the city standard of 25 x 125).