The Benjamin Ferguson Mansion Is Filled with Wood and Beauty

An impressive Second Empire-style mansion on Jackson Boulevard is up for sale.


For a closer look at the house, launch the photo gallery »
 

photos in video: courtesy public art in chicago

List Price: $1.6 million
The Property: It’s because of lumber merchant Benjamin Ferguson that Chicagoans live surrounded by great works of public art. A fund that Ferguson left after his death in 1905 funded works of art in Hyde Park, Logan Square, and Lincoln Park, and one of my favorites, the Fountain of the Great Lakes at the Art Institute.

Before all that, Ferguson lived surrounded by beauty in a Second Empire-style mansion he built in 1883 on Jackson Boulevard, which was a fashionable district at the time. The exterior is impressive, from the original slate roof and carvings in the limestone trim down to a pair of ornate wood front doors.

Inside, the formal living and dining rooms show how grandly he must have lived, with high ceilings, tall windows, and abundant wood trim. And then there are the fireplaces: a stunner in the living room made of white honey onyx, and an elaborate wood one in the dining room. There are also intact historical pocket doors, and one contains a relic of a later era in the home’s long history: a deadbolt. When the neighborhood declined, this house became a rooming house with more than a dozen units; the landlady lived in the main rooms, and that deadbolt was hers.

The rooming house was later shut down by the city and “nobody wanted this old place,” says Judy Peyton, who with her late husband paid $28,000 for it as part of a group effort to save the old Jackson Boulevard homes from demolition. The long-term renovation included installing suggestions of details that had been lost, such as numerous stained-glass windows bought at salvage—there’s just one original left, in a first-floor powder room—and the kitchen cabinets, which reproduce details from a cabinet found in an upstairs parlor.

Done almost 30 years ago, the kitchen may need renovation from a new buyer, but there’s no renovation needed on the home’s centerpiece, a magnificent three-story wood staircase. Ferguson’s business was wood, and he used a lot of it on this staircase—including carved wood panels that depict oaks and dogwoods.

The staircase rises to two upper floors that between them have six main spaces that a new buyer might re-configure. The second floor has a master bedroom that encompasses two rooms and a bath; and a large front room that was once the ladies’ parlor and now contains a pool table—and a second onyx fireplace. The third floor has bedrooms at each end, and a large middle room. They all have the tall windows and high ceilings—no ceiling in the house is lower than ten feet—and there’s a lot of space to work with. In all, on three floors there’s about 6,000 square feet.

And there’s more space outside, a large side yard and a big back yard behind an 1,100-square-foot coachhouse that contains a rentable apartment.

The neighborhood has changed a lot since Ferguson’s day—the acclaimed Whitney Young High School is across the street, and farther east from there is all the energy that has turned the West Loop into a fashionable neighborhood.

It looks like Benjamin Ferguson had the right idea 120 years ago.

Price Points: Peyton first put the house on the market in 2007, asking $2.5 million. She later took it off the market, but now, planning to move to North Carolina, she is putting it back on the open market June 1. For now, the agents have it as a pocket listing. Sabatini says that asking price reflects the fact that a buyer will have to spend about another $200,000 for façade work.

Listing Agents: @Properties’ Maria Sabatini (773-412-4484 and mlsabatini@atproperties.com) and Karen Holt (312-804-3331 and kholt@atproperties.com)

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