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Live in a Pretty Nice Barracks at Fort Sheridan

The barracks loft is well-priced, and there’s also a quartermaster’s house for sale. Both show the rich architecture and history of these ex-military residences.

The 1885 Holabird & Roche-designed barracks with water tower anchors Fort Sheridan.   Photo: Ian Spula

Fort Sheridan, a decommissioned military base straddling Highland Park, Highwood, and Lake Forest, became a neighborhood almost overnight when the Town of Fort Sheridan Company acquired the 138-acre site and its 94 structures from the federal government in 1997. Following an extensive environmental cleanup—there was pollution in the soil and groundwater, unexploded ordnance, and gnarly old equipment—a final count of 551 units of townhouses, condos, duplexes, and single-family homes were ready for move-in by the year 2000.

“Because we all moved in together, the sense of community is profound,” says Mike Warshell, owner of a large four-bedroom house on the market for $799,000. Warshell and his family are downsizing within the Fort, because they can’t see a good reason to leave. His house is a combination of side-by-side duplexes—former quartermaster residences—with a rear addition that again doubles the living space to nearly 4,000 square feet. Dating to 1895, the 10 years of vacancy between decommissioning and repopulating resulted in catastrophic flood damage. Much of the original wood rotted away; the brick façade and stone foundation were more recoverable.

As much as possible, Warshell honored the surviving white maple hardwoods, handsome frame windows, and staircase with his material choices in the rebuilt kitchen and throughout the sprawling addition. There’s extra space for a wine cellar or fitness room in the basement. The asking price has dipped $21,000 since listing in early April.

A few blocks away, @properties listing agents Ila Coretti and Sally Thompson also represent a new-to-market loft unit in the converted 1885 barracks. Two wings of townhouse-style units bracket a magnificent water tower. Sixty-four of Fort Sheridan’s buildings were designed by legendary architects Holabird & Roche, and nothing rivals these barracks. The unit in question is a second-floor one-bedroom loft with 10-20 foot ceilings, timbers, reclaimed barn door paneling, a double-sided fireplace, plank flooring, antique tile bathrooms, and a large balcony. Dozens of barracks units are similarly configured, but this one’s finishes are a notch above the norm.

The seller is flipping the home after closing in August 2013 for $310,000, muting the stylized gothic décor (the whole place was painted a rusted bronze and jammed with iron chandeliers), and installing a sound system, three large flatscreen TVs, and new carpeting. The lofted lounge space was originally intended as a second bedroom, and can easily go back to being one. Heading for the city, the seller is trying to get $399,000—still a reasonable price by square foot ($234) according to recent comps.

The barracks faces the dramatic parade grounds, 54 acres kept as open field and maintained by owners associations. All around this main circuit and a number of smaller loops are converted officer’s quarters, stables, and various former institutional buildings. The closer to the lake and forest preserve, the grander the homes, including new infill adhering to the one-note palette of the grounds—yellow brick.

Want in? Demand is up at the Fort, but there are always availabilities—these two examples are among 16 homes currently listed for sale.

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