The Queen of Terra Cotta Row
For a closer look at the house, launch the photo gallery »
List Price: $2.495 million
The Property: During its heyday in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Northwestern Terra Cotta Company made Chicago the capital of architectural ornamentation. The company’s officers weren’t shy about using their products on their homes on Terra Cotta Row, a cluster of four homes on the 1000 block of West Oakdale in Lake View. The most impressive of them is the Henry Rokham house, which is so detailed with terra cotta rosettes, plaques, and even a front fence that it’s easy to miss another set of artistic ornaments: the home’s numerous stained-glass windows.
They are impossible to overlook when inside the house, though. Because the residence, completed in 1887, sits on three and a half city lots (spanning about 88 feet), there’s nothing to block the sun when it shines through the glass. So you can stand on the second-floor landing (as I did in today’s video) with brightly illuminated stained glass on three sides: over the stairs on the east, in a bedroom facing south, and in another bedroom facing west.
In the living and dining rooms, 12-foot ceilings, tall windows, and inlaid wood floors lend a historical character that the sellers, Gary Mihalik and Frank Pieri, both doctors, have complemented with richly patterned Victorian wallpapers. Behind the formal rooms is the informal zone, which benefits from the house’s width (about 32 feet). The kitchen, dining room, and family room line up across the back of the house, in a comfortable arrangement that isn’t possible in more slender homes on standard-width city lots. The family room opens into a glassed-in side porch with more stained glass windows.
The basement has an office with beams in the ceiling, a fireplace, and a separate entrance from the sidewalk; there’s also another bedroom, another office, and a wine storage made of stacked terra cotta tubes. The sellers, who have lived here since 1996, upgraded many mechanical systems while renovating, says their sales agent, Joanne Nemerovski.
On the second floor are three bedrooms, each with a different pattern in its stained glass windows. The master bedroom, at the back of the second floor, combines what would originally have been a few rooms. It contains a large master bath, with walls tiled as ornately as the wallpaper in other rooms, and a very large closet and dressing area separated from the sleeping room by built-ins.
While the intricately patterned wallpapers set a Victorian tone for the home, Nemerovski says that some buyers find them overwhelming. Her online photo gallery includes a few images where the wallpapers have been photoshopped out and replaced by neutral colors.
Price Points: Nemerovski estimates that the two-bedroom apartment in the rear coach house, now occupied by relatives of the sellers, would rent for about $1,850 a month, with an additional $100 for an inside parking space and $60 for an outside spot. (There are two parking spaces in the coach house and two outside for the main home’s occupants.) The sellers originally listed the home for sale in 2009 at $3.9 million; when Nemerovski got the listing last summer, they cut it to $2.695 million and later to the current price. That’s down 63 percent from what they were asking in 2009. “When you figure out how little it costs to live here on this huge lot with all this historical richness, it’s a fantastic opportunity,” Nemerovski says.