See more photos below.
List Price: $3.2 million
Sale Price: $2.25 million
The Property: First listed in 2007 for $6.5 million, this once-grand mansion on five acres in central Lake Forest sold on September 7 for $2.25 million—just 34 percent of the original asking price. Built in 1914, its architect was Arthur Heun, who designed many of the premier mansions in Chicago and Lake Forest.
In 1918, the mansion became home to the newlyweds William H. and Ginevra Mitchell. The son of the president of the Illinois Merchants Trust Company (which later merged with the Continental National Bank and Trust Company), Mitchell served with the U.S. naval aviation corps during World War I, working as a flight instructor in Key West. In 1919, with the backing of his father and other wealthy Chicagoans, he cofounded Mitchell, Hutchins & Co., an investment firm whose name, despite its 1980 acquisition by Paine Weber, remained in place until 2001.
In 1915, when she was 16, Mitchell’s bride, née Ginevra King, began a flirtatious, largely epistolary romance with F. Scott Fitzgerald while he was a student at Princeton University. Their relationship had cooled by the time she accepted Mitchell’s marriage proposal, but she left an indelible impression on Fitzgerald: he used her as the model for several of his fictional characters, most notably that of Daisy Buchanan, the glamorous, amoral heartbreaker in The Great Gatsby.
In 1939, Ginevra left Mitchell to marry John T. Pirie, the grandson of a founder of Carson, Pirie Scott & Co. Mitchell remarried, too: his second wife, née Anne Wood, was the daughter of General Robert Wood, who spent three decades at the helm of Sears, Roebuck and Co.
According to the Lake County Recorder of Deeds, the Mitchell family sold the house in 1988; in 1995, Philip and Deborah Friedman bought the place (I couldn’t determine what they paid). The Friedmans sold the house last week, but according to their agent, they never lived in the seven-bedroom home full-time. “They bought it as a weekend, summer-type house,” says Nancy Adelman of Griffith, Grant & Lackie. (I could not locate the Friedmans for comment.)
The Friedmans did little to update the house, and sometime during the years it sat on the market, Adelman says, some water pipes froze and then burst; the listing sheet emphasized that the house was “not habitable at this time.” “Even before the pipes burst,” Adelman says, “every inch of the house needed to be [fixed up].” My photos reveal the home’s deteriorating exterior and landscaping. I don’t know the condition of the interior, but the listing photos show grandly proportioned main rooms with ornamental plaster ceilings, extensive millwork, and leaded-glass windows. Adelman and the buyer’s agent, Scott Lackie, say that the buyer (whom they would not identify) is a homebuilder; Adelman says that he plans to restore the house.
Price Points: Explaining why the house sat unsold for so long, Adelman says that it was put up for sale “when the market crashed. All the builders who would have been keen to take it on [earlier] had no financial ability to do it anymore.” With prices dropping so much in recent years, she adds, a homeowner could get a well-maintained house for the price of this one, which will need a multimillion-dollar rehab. The new owner, she points out, “can do it at builders’ cost.”