Mrs. McCormick’s Lake Forest Teahouse

List Price: $1.5 million
Sale Price: $1.05 million
The Property: Nestled into the trees at the edge of a ravine in east Lake Forest, this tile-roofed teahouse is a remnant of Walden, the 80-acre lakefront estate of Cyrus H. McCormick II. Built in the 1920s, it was converted to a house in the 1950s…

Pagoda style Teahouse in Lake Forest

List Price: $1.5 million
Sale Price: $1.05 million

The Property: Nestled into the trees at the edge of a ravine in east Lake Forest, this tile-roofed teahouse is a remnant of Walden, the 80-acre lakefront estate of Cyrus H. McCormick II. Built in the 1920s, it was converted to a house in the 1950s with a three-bedroom addition.

Cyrus McCormick and his first wife, Harriet, began developing Walden in 1896. Harriet died in 1921; later in that decade, McCormick’s second wife, Alice Holt McCormick, commissioned the architect Dwight Perkins to design an authentic teahouse for the grounds. Local lore has it that Alice had the teahouse built for a visit by the emperor of Japan, but because the first official visit to the United States by a Japanese emperor (Hirohito) didn’t occur until 1975, that seems unlikely.

Nevertheless, the structure is a lovely winter-proof version of a cha-shitsu, adapted for our climate by replacing traditional bamboo walls with glass and wood. The ceiling of the main teahouse room has a pattern of interlocking beams that mirrors the brick-pattern muntin bars in the upper windows, so that the interior and exterior mingle serenely.

In the mid-1950s, when the Walden estate was being dismantled, the teahouse and 1.28 acres of land was purchased by Charles D. Peacock Haerther, a great-grandson of the jeweler Elijah Peacock, who in 1837 founded the company now called C. D. Peacock. Haerther tapped the architect I. W. Coburn to turn the teahouse into a home. Coburn embraced the teahouse with a boxy set of connected spaces on its upland side. The teahouse functions as a great room or enlarged living room for the home.

Haerther, who surrounded the house with Japanese-influenced gardens, died a few years ago, and his estate listed the home for sale with Marina Vernon of Griffith, Grant & Lackie. The buyers, who are not yet identified in public records, closed their purchase of the house on June 24th. Their agent, Coldwell Banker’s Linda Landsell, says that her clients don’t intend to tear down the teahouse, but “aren’t sure exactly what they’re going to do yet.” The structure has no landmark protection that would prohibit demolition, Vernon says.  

Price Points: The property was originally priced well over $2 million—possibly as high as $2.8 million, but Vernon did not confirm that. “The price started high, but it was a different market then,” she says. Early on, “we had a bunch of people looking at the land who couldn’t care less about the teahouse.”

Listing Agent: Marina Vernon of Proximity Partners at Griffith, Grant & Lackie, 847-283-0792

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