Riverside is littered with the works of Chicago’s all-star architects. Daniel Burnham, Louis Sullivan, William Drummond, and William Le Baron Jenney are represented; Frank Lloyd Wright has three designs in this village of barely 9,000. Incorporated in 1875, Riverside grew in fits and starts over succeeding decades despite conforming to a master plan by Frederick Law Olmsted, recruited to lay out the nation’s first planned community, and a model suburb, in 1868. Tight clusters of handsome cottages rented to the Riverside Improvement Company’s builders were among th earliest structures.
Some of these Queen Anne cottages survive today. One of them just hit the market for $469,000 in the First Division—the bucolic peninsula where Riverside got started. The village founders grabbed choice plots in this area just south of the train tracks and there is still a premium placed on living in the First Division.
The five-bedroom house has just 1,800 square feet of living space, but every room is squared off more-or-less evenly so nothing feels cramped. A finished basement with three rooms also invites additional living space. While refurbishment is a must for the dated kitchen and the carpeted bedrooms, the house as a whole is graced with never-painted wood floors, trim, stairs, and banisters dating to the 1880 construction. The foyer is particularly fine, with Victorian wallpaper and leaded glass.
The house is not individually landmarked, although every structure in town falls under National Historic Landmark citation. Thus, a buyer is free to go beyond interior revamp and expand the house’s footprint. They may well want to, especially since there’s opportunity at the back of the house where the kitchen meets a large deck via sliding glass. “A buyer could easily blow out the back of the house to expand,” says listing agent Judy Jisa of Burlington Realty. “There’s so much yard.” Jisa should know—she’s lived next door for 33 years in another Queen Anne cottage that more than doubled in size in 1905 when an owner dragged in a second house and fused the two. And her roots in the community go back to its beginnings. Two of Jisa’s great-great-grandfathers helmed the Riverside Improvement Company. One of these men was Alfred J. Cross, who has a grand home still standing a block away and another set of cottages in his name.
The angularity of the featured house’s roofline is a good complement to the curvilinear drives and elliptical pocket parks characterizing Riverside. The home’s charming front porch looks onto a widening of this omnipresent green space. Olmsted built 42 parks, or “commons”, into his landscape plan.The famous Coonley Estate by Frank Lloyd Wright, subdivided and shrunken a good bit from its once-enormous scale, is also a neighbor.
Price Points: Riverside averages about 100 home sales a year, but there’s very little inventory at present, particularly for historic properties. The pickings will only get slimmer through the New Year. Jisa is confident in her pricing for this fact and because of the extra desirability of this section of Riverside. The home’s imperfect interiors are barely a factor, since so many buyers want to transmit their own style into a place. The sellers spent 24 years in the home and are moving to Michigan for work.