List Price: $8,595,000
The Property: In 1977, Ronald and Carole DeBruin bought three lakefront acres in Lake Forest that had once been part of Villa Turicum, the 269-acre estate of Harold and Edith McCormick, both children of enormously wealthy fathers. (Harold was the youngest son of Cyrus McCormick, who invented the mechanical reaper that was the foundation of International Harvester; Edith, the original benefactor of Brookfield Zoo, had John D. Rockefeller, the founder of Standard Oil, for a father.) The DeBruins built this elegant 13-room house, which has five bedrooms, a 52-foot-wide entry hall, and a family room that opens onto a bluestone terrace and oversized hot tub. But the real attraction may be the lot, which stretches 360 feet across a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan, one of the widest private lakefront parcels on the North Shore.
In addition to building their new home, the DeBruins set about preserving what remained of Villa Turicum, the lavish 44-room mansion and grounds commissioned in 1908 by Harold and Edith McCormick. The estate included an ornate staircase that descended the property’s 75-foot-high bluff to a beachside swimming pool. Fountains cascaded down the stairway, and statuary dotted its landings. An elevator tucked deep inside the bluff carried visitors back up to the house.
Trapped in a troubled marriage that eventually led to divorce, the McCormicks spent little time at Villa Turicum. The place fell into disrepair, and the mansion was demolished in 1959. (The property was subdivided in the 1970s and is now home to a suburban neighborhood.) But remnants of Villa Turicum survive today on the DeBruin property, including the beach steps, a 120-foot-long reflecting pool, and, beneath the soil, a large section of the mansion’s foundation (the swimming pool and the elevator are gone). The DeBruins undertook an extensive restoration of the steps and the reflecting pool, and they planted gardens and trees to highlight the old foundation’s lines.
Having raised their children in the house, the DeBruins (he’s a radiologist at Lake Forest Hospital) plan to move closer to Chicago, though it’s a bittersweet move. “We spend a lot of time in the city anyway,“ says Carol DeBruin, “and we can leave this house. But how do we leave this property?”
Price Points: The DeBruins initially listed the home for sale in February, asking $8,999,000. In October, they reduced it to the current asking price. The McCormicks reportedly spent $5 million on Villa Turicum—about $250 million in today’s dollars.
Listing Agent: Jeannie Emmert, Coldwell Banker, (847) 735-7635
For more photos and information about the DeBruin house, go to: www.595circle.com