Afloat Over Lake View in a Milton Schwartz Penthouse
For a closer look at the penthouse, launch the photo gallery »
List Price: $669,000
The Property: Milton Schwartz was a modernist Chicago architect best known for later buildings like the Hotel 71 (formerly the Executive House) on Wacker Drive and the now-demolished Dunes Hotel in Las Vegas. But as a young man—just 29 years old—he created one of Chicago’s slickest modernist buildings, 320 W. Oakdale.
Schwartz was the builder on a somewhat conventional building across the street. But for this project, completed in 1954, Schwartz served as both the builder and the architect. A striking new structure was the result. Set atop a set of black pillars and a glass-box ground-level lobby, the stack of rectangular, concrete-ribbed floors seemed to float above the street. Schwartz divided the top floor, the 21st between two penthouses, one facing for himself and his wife, Audrey; and the other for his in-laws (who never moved in).
Owned by the same family since 1967, that second penthouse is now on the market. It’s a gem in need of polishing: Although wrapped in floor-to-ceiling glass and opening on the east side to a large terrace with majestic lakefront views, the condo needs updating. The kitchen is not only dark and dated but occupies an interior spot with no view. A buyer may want to cut open one or both of the main walls in the vast L-shaped living and dining area to give the kitchen a share of the natural light and city views that those tall windows bring in.
That aside, the space is very appealing, especially for fans of modernism. It has one zany quirk: The floor of the hallway from the elevator is made of teak logs surrounded by black concrete that looks like bubbly lava. It cries out “tiki bar.”
In today’s video, Schwartz’s widow, Audrey, who still lives in the adjacent penthouse, tells a charming story about getting caught “necking” with Milton on the building’s site when it was still a vacant lot. She goes on to talk about her late husband’s buildings as encompassing air, light and space, and often seeming to float. She has stayed in the building not only for sentimental reasons, she says, but because “it seems as contemporary today as when he built it.” (Indeed, on Wacker Drive in the Lakeshore East neighborhood, there’s a residential building called Coast nearing completion now that looks as if it could be the child of 320 W. Oakdale.)
The penthouse’s two bedrooms are face east, both with absorbing views out across the neighborhood. Across the entry hall from them is the main living area, a 30-by-15 living room (furnished as two separate seating areas now and perfectly able to handle a few different uses). The adjacent dining area makes an L, and then there’s a small library area that makes it a Z. The terrace has an open roof and breathtaking views—the boats in Belmont Harbor are at your feet to the left and those in Diversey Harbor are on the right—making the home seem to float above the city, just as Schwartz intended.
Price Points: Although the price is $669,000, “I envision this as a million-dollar property,” says the sellers’ agent, Don Breitfelder. That’s because a buyer will almost certainly want to re-do the kitchen. But the two baths—one in pink and black, the other in blue and yellow—have a period flair that some may want to keep or play up.