List Price: $525,000
Sale Price: $525,000
The Property: Kurt and Mary Jane Neumann, who will move into Ernest Hemingway’s childhood home this week, feel ties not only to the famed novelist but also to the layout of the house where he grew up. Kurt, a lawyer, spent quite a bit of time as a boy on Michigan’s Walloon Lake, where Hemingway’s family had a summer home. He’s also lodged in a Kenya hotel where Hemingway stayed while in Africa and sought out sites in Paris connected to the writer.
“[Hemingway’s works] have been an influence in my husband’s life,” Mary Jane Neumann told me last week. We were sitting on the front porch of the Oak Park home that Hemingway’s family moved into in 1906, when he was 7, and to which he returned in 1919 after being wounded in Italy during World War I.
Mary Jane’s ties are to the front rooms of the home, where Hemingway’s physician father, Clarence, practiced. An acupuncturist, she has two grandfathers who were family practitioners with home-based practices. “I love the connection there,” she said, gesturing at the windows, behind which contractors were already at work stripping the floors.
On top of all those sentimental ties, there’s this: the younger of the Neumanns’ two sons shares Hemingway’s birthday, July 21.
On June 12, the Neumanns closed on their $525,000 purchase of the 4,100-square-foot house, which had been in the hands of the Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park since 2001. The foundation had paid $520,000 for the building, which was divided into three apartments after Grace Hemingway, the author’s mother, moved out in 1936 following her husband’s suicide. In 2009, the foundation and Dominican University in River Forest announced a partnership to restore the home. They planned a Hemingway-related study and tourism center, as well as some faculty housing, a project that reportedly would have cost as much as $2 million. That idea never moved forward, and in February the foundation put the house on the market.
The Neumanns, who had lived on the next block since 2006, made one of three offers on the house, says Steve Scheuring, the listing agent. They had not been planning to move, Mary Jane said, and had done some recent renovations on their home. Spotting a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, though, they put in a full-price offer on the Hemingway house.
The family will move in Wednesday, after having some walls torn down (to reconfigure the interior space as a single-family home) and refinishing the floors—including those in Ernest’s third-floor bedroom (in photo at right). Mary Jane Neumann said that they will fill that dormered room with Hemingway books and memorabilia and use it as a guest room. The rest of the house will be restored to approximately its 1906 looks, with help from the original plans for the house by Grace Hemingway and her architect collaborator, Henry G. Fiddelke, as well as writings about the home by Ernest’s siblings.
Mary Jane would not estimate what the renovations will cost, but she said that they will do the work over a period of years while living in it. “We’ll update the kitchen, but we’re not changing the floor plan at all,” she said. “We’ll be mindful of the history.”
Price Points: The home is larger than most of its neighbors; more typical is the Neumanns’ former home, which is less than half the size of the Hemingway house and which they had on the market for $509,000, down from an April asking price of $539,000 (it’s under contract now). Scheuring says that the size of the neighboring homes “puts a cap on the value of this one.” Fully restored, he says, “I don’t see it getting past $1.1 million.” Directly across the street from the Hemingway house is another very large home; it sold for $1.67 million in 2007. “But that was at the height of the market,” Scheuring noted.