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List Price: $599,000
The Property: All that remains of what in the early 20th century was the Riverside estate of the entrepreneur and horse breeder Henry Babson is three service buildings—and one and a half of them are on the market.
One of the buildings is a long, low residence that was once the home and workspace of Babson’s gardeners—but it has such a wealth of decorative detail in its art glass windows, carved wooden ornaments, and stucco-and-wood eaves that you would never guess the building originally served such a modest purpose. Along with the house comes a half interest in the four-car garage (the site’s second building), an unusually showy structure with a huge upswept roof and a pair of geometric wooden sculptures standing above its original doors, which feature more art glass windows. (The other half-ownership of the garage goes with the site’s third building, which is a separate residence.)
It’s all the work of Purcell and Elmslie, an architectural firm that designed many Midwestern Arts and Crafts–style buildings. Its work on the 28-acre Babson estate, completed in 1914, was meant to complement a Louis Sullivan mansion there that is now gone. From the street, the remaining buildings appear to be a couple of above-the-norm ranch houses, but little more. But as you will see from our video of the for-sale property, the details make this 2,900-square-foot home extraordinary.
There are rabbits carved in the finials of a pergola, wooden “flags” protruding from some beams, and an elaborate wooden screen that covers much of one end of the house. Inside is a classic Roman brick fireplace and a soaring peaked ceiling in the large combined living and dining rooms. And all around are the windows, 64 of them, decorated with an angular floral design that is a lasting tribute to the gardeners who would have lived and worked in the building in the estate’s heyday. Even some interior doors have the art glass.
The house is being sold by the estate of Inez Crofts, a longtime music teacher who lived here for 53 years, much of that time with her husband, Philip, who died before her. Because of the Crofts’ long tenure in the home, it could use some updating. The kitchen and bathrooms are small, and a buyer might choose to move the master bedroom to the west end of the house, where it would open onto its own brick-walled courtyard, the remnants of a greenhouse that was attached to the building. This home stands behind its partner house, removed from the street; that and its three-quarter acre lot provide a sense of privacy in quiet, leafy Riverside.
Price Points: The house went on the market in February with an asking price of $679,000, which was later cut to $599,000. The cost of any renovation is hard to estimate, because some buyers might opt to live in the home as is. There are two other homes for sale in Riverside at its asking price: one built in 1930 and another from 1954. While neither of them is a project-in-the-making like the Babson cottage, they have only a fraction of its artistic merit.