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List Price: $1.69 million
The Property: This farmhouse built in 1856 is surrounded by tall trees and its own large lot. Although the setting feels quintessentially suburban, it’s actually in the city, in a section of Old Irving Park that was once a suburb called Grayland, and prior to that was the farm of John and Phoebe Gray. They subdivided into a suburb, so the house is now surrounded by bungalows, smaller farmhouse types and apartment buildings, but on its own four-tenths of an acre (or five and half city lots), still has its suburban charms.
That’s especially true on the immense front porch that surrounds three sides of the house. There are two more porches: one you might call a breakfast porch because it’s off the breakfast room in a morning-sun spot, and then a large porch at the rear that might have been where carriages pulled up before passing through to a stable that has since been replaced by a three-car garage.
The house was built in the Italianate style, with large rooms, tall windows, high ceilings, and base and crown moldings still intact. The three front formal rooms all have original fireplaces and ornate plaster medallions on the ceilings.
Behind those major formal rooms is a large eat-in kitchen, a den, and a family room. They feel newer than the front part of the house, but are done in a light-Victorian style that pays homage to the age of the house.
One legendary room doesn’t appear in our video tour: there once may have been a hiding room underneath the porch. The house is believed to have been a part of the Underground Railroad. The train station named Grayland is about two blocks away, on what was once the Milwaukee Road line, launched in 1847, and is now Metra’s Milwaukee District North Line.
The second floor suits a family very well, with four bedrooms and two and a half baths served by a hall whose ample width makes it feel more like living space than a corridor. There’s also a second-floor laundry, not to mention a mini-kitchen that would come in handy late at night when little kids want snacks.
Above it all is a cupola, a prominent tower where legend says residents gathered to watch the Great Chicago Fire raging a few miles southeast in 1871. A cupola is typical for a house from 1856, but it’s also a very modern device. When the windows at the top are opened, air is pulled through the house, creating cooling ventilation before there was air conditioning. The house is air conditioned now, but using the cupola for weather conditioning is a green alternative—and something that green architects are using in some new homes.
Price Points: The sellers, Ron and Robyn Schwartz, bought the house in 2007 for $1.4 million. Their agent, Debbie Kaden, says the asking price is approximately the total of their purchase price plus the cost of their improvements, which included adding a bedroom, re-decking all the porches, building a new master bath, and one of those unglamorous but necessary jobs: updating the drainage system around the perimeter of the house. They first listed the house in April at $1.7 million, but reduced the price in May.
Kaden will be hosting an open house at the property Sunday, June 23, 1 to 3 p.m.
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