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Buy a Big Historic Gem in the McCormick Row House District for $1.965 Million

Be just the third owner of this six-bedroom, four-bath place in a coveted cluster of private row homes in DePaul’s Lincoln Park campus.

The open first floor of a corner townhouse in the McCormick Row House District, looking from the living room through to the rear kitchen and conservatory.   Photo: Ian Spula

Three short blocks stitched together by gated street and parkway are the nuts and bolts of the landmark McCormick Row House District in Lincoln Park.

The simplified Queen Anne brick row houses on the 800 blocks of West Belden and Chalmers streets are quite coveted. Two bookends sold on the same week in late summer 2013 for $1.975 million and exactly $2 million. On April 16, another returned to market with an asking price of $1.965 million, down $30,000 from a brief fall listing.

It’s a rare crack at this mostly-detached extra-wide townhouse, as seller Evan J. Ellman is just the second owner since the district transitioned from McCormick Theological Seminary rental stock to private homes in 1975. The 54 townhouses and two freestanding mansions were largely in disrepair, but they were attractive because of their size and exclusive location in the belly of DePaul’s campus.

“DePaul really wanted to buy all these houses when the Seminary moved away,” says Ellman. “But one of the residents got renters to pool their money, and the combined pool outbid DePaul.” Today, it’s hard to picture, but doing such a thing in mid-70s Lincoln Park, west of Halsted, made one an urban pioneer.

Ellman’s house has never actually been on the market, until now. “When I heard the home would be listing [in 1984], I literally camped out in front the night before the owners were due back from a trip to India so that I could make an offer the next morning.” The property is 38-feet-wide and bracketed by gardens and small trees on three sides. The few feet of separation between it and the neighboring structure effectively detaches it from the row even though facades and stairwells are attached.

The 1894 corner house has six bedrooms, which, owning to deep floor plates and 5,400 square feet of living space, are easily fit on the second and third levels. There are also four full bathrooms including a master with Jacuzzi bath. The interior has a noticeably smooth flow, with only a hint of division between first floor common rooms. The ability to see down the length of the home across a foyer, double living room, dining room, kitchen, and conservatory makes it great for entertaining, says Ellman.

Many of the landmark home’s vintage details are still around, from the carved stair railing to the shutters and three wood-burning fireplaces. A front turret also brings a quirky bit of bonus space to a pair of rooms on the second and third floors. Ellman added the rear conservatory and rebuilt the adjoining kitchen as a large, bright space with checkered floors. Other notable features include a large third floor deck and wiring for sound on the first floor.

The townhouse has become too much for Ellman, who plans to spend more time in Florida with her 99-year-old mother. “I don’t know how I’m going to have an identity after I lose this house. I’m inextricably bound to it.”

Price Points: As part of a loose district-wide owner’s association, a small $167/month assessment applies. It covers water, common insurance, and two designated street parking spaces. The association also maintains the shared grounds, including the central parkway and the rare stand of massive Dutch Elm trees in the laneway between the Chalmers and Belden rows—which are given immune boosters to ward off disease. Jameson Sotheby’s Matt Leutheuser has the listing.

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