Braun listed the house in March 2010, but “quietly,” says her agent, Diane Silverman of Urban Search Realty. For instance, there is no for-sale sign in front of the property. “It’s been on the market since long before I knew I was going to run for [mayor],” Braun told me Tuesday.
In December 2006, Braun paid $1.7 million for the five-bedroom home, according to information from the Cook County Recorder of Deeds (a post Braun held from 1988 to 1992). Four months later, she was mugged while standing at her front door, but Braun says that did not prompt her decision to sell.
“I bought this house thinking that my son [Matthew] was going to live here with me,” she said. “After I moved in, he said, ‘No self-respecting 30-year-old man lives with his mother.’ So I’m rattling around in this house. I’ve got four guest rooms. That doesn’t make any sense.”
Braun’s career in Chicago politics dates to 1979, when she was elected to the Illinois House. In 1993, she became the first (and remains the only) African American woman elected to the U.S. Senate, where she served a single term. In 1999 she was appointed ambassador to New Zealand (she held that post until 2001), and in 2003 she ran for president, dropping out of the race in early 2004. In 2005, she launched Ambassador Organics.
Braun’s red brick house sits on Hyde Park’s Professors Row. Hers was a latecomer to the cluster, built in 1916 to a design by Murray Hetherington, who also designed some houses in the Beverly neighborhood. “It’s a magnificent English Arts and Crafts home, with fireplaces and leaded glass windows, and a beautiful garden out back,” Braun says. “We found [the remains] of a mural in the dining room [when I moved in]. It had been a dark green forest scene, but it had been destroyed by previous owners, so we couldn’t preserve it.”
At her asking price of $1.9 million, Braun is seeking to sell at an 11 percent profit over what she paid four years ago. (Flipping through Chicago’s annual real-estate charts, I found that Hyde Park’s current average sale price for single-family homes is in the 2004-2005 range.) “I’m not into ‘buy high, sell low,’” Braun told me. “The market is so soft. Until it turns around, I’ll stay here.”
While she has not yet begun looking for a new home—“We’ll wait until Diane gets this one sold,” she insisted—Braun said that she is not wedded to staying in Hyde Park, where she has lived since her days as a University of Chicago law student four decades ago. “I love Hyde Park,” she said, “but I’ve gotten to a point where I can move around Chicago a little bit.”