List Price: $2.45 million
The Property: When the picturesque but obsolete Fort Sheridan military base on the Lake Michigan bluffs between Highland Park and Lake Forest was being converted to a residential neighborhood in the late 1990s, a key member of the redevelopment team, Richard Stein, called dibs on what must have seemed at the time like a questionable parcel. While some of his teammates snapped up handsome blufftop homes that had housed the base’s top officers, Stein took a long, squat building a few blocks from the lakefront that had been a garage for cannons and caissons.
A decade later, Stein’s strategy with the structure that was only known as Building 89 is clear. Transforming its 16 stone arches, each 20 feet tall, into doorways and windows, Stein created a home where indoors and outdoors blend together beautifully. On the east side of the house is a lovely garden shaded by three tall oaks that may predate the establishment of the military base in 1887; the garden has a fantastic view over a stone-rimmed pond to the fort’s great landmark—a soaring blond-brick water tower—and other historical military buildings designed by the architectural firm Holabird & Roche. On the west, the arches open onto a more private garden area beneath a rustic-timbered pergola.
Inside, the home spreads out like the quintessential ranch house, with only a few, expansive rooms, all opening out to the gardens. The living room is a blend of old and new, with wide hickory floors, a big fireplace (with a mantel decorated with metal stars from the old ceiling buttresses), and an iron catwalk overhead that leads to two guest bedrooms and baths and a family room tucked beneath the 25-foot ceiling. Throughout the kitchen, dining room, and master suite, the finishes continue the feeling of a secluded country retreat—and the views of the gardens and surroundings never quit, even in winter.
Stein sold the property four years ago to John and Judith Ellerman, who use it as a summer home. Both retired, they also live in Atlanta and Scottsdale. Of their Fort Sheridan property, Judith Ellerman says: “It’s basically a converted warehouse, so you get the sophistication of living downtown, and yet you live in a wonderful little community of 5,000 people and you look out through those magnificent archways into the gardens from every room. It’s a wonderful place to be.”
Because they are now building a larger home in Scottsdale, the Ellermans plan to rent a smaller place for their stays in Chicago. Last May, the Ellermans listed the home for sale with Marcia Icko Paris and Jeannie Emmert of Coldwell Banker.
Price Points: The sellers’ price has not changed since it was first listed eight months ago, a period during which numerous sellers have cut their asking prices—in some cases, multiple times. The property is gorgeous, but unlike those lakefront homes Stein’s partners kept for themselves, this one is in a part of the fort where homes sell for half (and less) of this one’s price.
Listing Agents: Marsha Icko Paris (847-681-4127) and Jeannie Emmert (847-735-7635), both of Coldwell Banker. For more information on the house, go to www.96ronan.com.