In Evanston, Where Britannica Ruled the Waves
For a closer look at the house, launch the photo gallery »
List Price: $4.4 million
Sale Price: $3.8 million
The Property: Two longtime philanthropists linked to the old Chicago-based Encyclopedia Britannica have sold their lakefront home in northeast Evanston.
The property has 185 feet of Lake Michigan frontage and shares more with neighbors on its cul-de-sac.
Charles and Marjorie Benton—he heads up a foundation that focuses on public media, and she coordinates aid for Haiti and cofounded Chicago’s Peace Museum, among other ventures—have lived there since 1998, according to the Cook County Recorder of Deeds.
Built in 1964, the home is situated on a small point that has views north, east, and south. “Because of the way the land curves, it’s a slightly different view from each room,” says Sally Mabadi, the listing agent on the sale, which closed July 31. This house and a few others share the grounds of a 19th-century estate. South of today’s house, a large common lawn runs to the water. “My sellers would always say that it was like living on a golf course and the lake,” Mabadi says.
You can get a feeling for the proximity of the house to Lake Michigan from the listing photos (which Mabadi provided and we’ve posted below). “You don’t need to go down stairs to get to the water,” Mabadi points out. “It’s just a little walk down a gentle slope.”
Inside, the 11-room house has large window and door openings on the lake side, pecan paneling in the library, and five bedrooms. There’s also a one-bedroom guest suite above the three-car garage. “[The home] was designed to integrate with the landscape, so the interior is beautiful but [simple],” Mabadi says. “It’s not one of those grand old homes. The greatest success of the house is that you always feel like you’re outside or close to the outdoors.”
Charles Benton is the son of William Benton, an ad executive and short-term U.S. Senator from Connecticut who in 1943 bought the Encyclopedia Britannica from Sears. When William Benton died in 1973, Charles Benton took over; the Benton Foundation (which Charles still runs) owned the encyclopedia until 1996, when it was sold to a Swiss financier.
Public records do not reveal how much the Bentons paid for the Evanston home in 1998, nor do they identify the names of the new owners. Mabadi said that the Bentons are staying in Evanston; she did not, however, know the buyers’ plans for the property—whether to keep the house or demolish it and build a new residence.
Price Points: The home originally went on the market about a year ago, listed at $5.25 million; since then, the price was reduced at least twice. The sale closed July 31. The sale price is 72 percent of the original asking price and 86 percent of the last asking price. The Bentons weren’t alone in coming down so far: last week, a CNBC reporter declared 2012 the “Year of Capitulation” among high-end sellers.
Photography: (top) Dennis Rodkin; (all others) Matt Mansueto