List Price: $18 million
UPDATED Price Reduction as of 7/10: $15 million
The Property: This grand home on Lake Forest’s Mayflower Road is truly one of the most magnificent ever built in Chicago. The 27-room mansion was completed in 1915 as a wedding gift from John G. Shedd, then the president of Marshall Field & Co., to his daughter, Laura, newly married to Charles Schweppe. Designed by Frederick Wainwright Perkins, who had built homes for the elder Shedd and a few other people in Chicago’s Kenwood neighborhood, this Tudor sits on the last five acres of what was once a far larger estate.
Fittingly for such a regal place, the home, known as Mayflower Place, may have entertained royalty at least twice. Legend says that Laura Shedd Schweppe hosted a crown prince and princess of Sweden, who danced on the eastern terrace. With Wallis Simpson, for whom he abdicated the British throne in 1936, Edward, Duke of Windsor slept in a bedroom on the western end of the home’s second floor. (There were once 20 bedrooms; the present layout has 11.) Looking out their bedroom window to a fountain court enclosed by ivy-covered brick and limestone walls, the couple may have felt they were staying in an ancient English estate.
There is so much remarkable craftsmanship and detailing in the house— ornate chandeliers, elaborate plaster decorations on the ceilings, carved wooden figures in the paneling, Scottish heraldry on the walls of the library—that I can’t list them all. The accompanying photos and video provide a large, but by no means complete, sampling.
Much of the detail is either original or a painstaking reproduction. Though carefully maintained, the house sat vacant for 46 years after Charles Schweppe’s 1941 suicide; his wife had died four years earlier, leaving most of her $10-million estate to their children. In 1987, Donna Denten and her then-husband purchased the mansion and launched a yearlong restoration that employed more than 70 craftspeople. The updating, which included air conditioning and modern heat, was done very carefully, in order to conceal any hint of newness.
I first toured the house in the early 1990s, after Denten, who had recently divorced, had put the place on the market before opting to stay. It was then, exactly as it is now, a complete period piece, as if preserved in amber from its heyday.
Price Points: In 1987, Denten and her husband paid about $5 million for the estate, which at that time was in the hands of A. Watson Armour III, the widower of the Shedds’ daughter Jean. In those days, the property included at least ten more acres, a big coach house, and a pool, all of which were later sectioned off from the main house. (The main house still has all its direct views of Lake Michigan.) Denten has not specified how much was spent on renovations, but given the attention to detail and authenticity, it must have been considerable. She listed the house for sale in December with Houda Chedid, who often handles important historical homes in Lake Forest. I’ve written about some of her listings here and here.
Listing Agent: Houda Chedid of Coldwell Banker, 847-987-8517; www.houdachedid.com