In Hyde Park, a 106-Year-Old House Gets a 21st-Century Makeover
List Price: $1.995 million
The Property: For more than 60 years, this Hyde Park home belonged to Bernard Meltzer and his wife, Jean. Meltzer, who died in 2007, was a University of Chicago law professor who served as a prosecutor in the Nuremberg war trials and helped formulate the United Nations Charter; his wife died in 2008. Now the couple’s great-nephew, Robert Meltzer, has updated the house, keeping its warm historical character, but with bigger, brighter rooms and a floor plan that suits today’s family lifestyles.
Key to the update was removing a rear servants’ staircase, which opened up space for a large, sunny kitchen. Meltzer was careful to preserve a suggestion of the home’s original formality: the big dining room next to the kitchen is separated from it by a partial wall of cabinets between two hefty pillars. As a result, the division between kitchen and dining can be as formal or as informal as the future homeowners want it to be.
On the second floor, the staircase’s removal made space for each of two children’s bedrooms to have its own bathroom. That meant that the bath that had been shared by everyone on this floor could be incorporated into the master suite. Meltzer also converted what had been a fourth bedroom into a spacious master dressing room connected to the master bedroom. Thus, this 1904 house now has a master suite that competes with what you would find in new-construction homes (not that there are many of those in Hyde Park).
Meltzer updated all the house’s systems—electrical, plumbing, and heating/cooling. At the same time, he attended to small details: the window and door hardware was attractive but brass, which is an outdated look, so he had it all refinished in a more au courant satin nickel. He also upgraded the attic and the basement, putting two bedrooms and a playroom on the top floor and a bedroom, bath, family room, and kitchenette in the basement. (In all, there are six bedrooms.)
Behind the house is a 3,000-square-foot coach house that Meltzer has not renovated; it has parking for six cars in the garage and a three-bedroom apartment upstairs. Compared to that old-looking coach house, the main house looks pristine and might be mistaken for a new residence—if it weren’t for the 24-inch-thick brick walls, which no one today does for residential construction. “It’s up to six courses [or layers] of brick,” Meltzer notes.
Price Points: The entire property, including the house and coach house and, to their west, a side lot that is a remnant of a long-gone mansion’s grounds, is 160 feet by 150 feet. (A standard Chicago lot is 25 by 125.) Meltzer has the house and coach house, on a lot of about 90 by 150 feet, priced at $1.995 million, but he is asking $2.4 million with the addition of the vacant lot. “My strong desire is to sell it all as one [property],” he says, “so I would dramatically discount the price of the lot for somebody who is going to keep them together.” Should the buyer of the house opt to forego the lot, Meltzer expects to market it for about $675,000. He says he won’t sell the lot until the house has sold, in order to preserve the land option for any new homeowner.
Listing Agent: Madelaine Gerbaulet-Vanasse of Metro Pro; 773-818-6318