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A Pair of 1880s Row Houses Hit the Market in Lincoln Park

The historic row house and its twin neighbor have the same seller and a combined asking price of $2.25 million. The eccentric interiors will be disposable to some and indispensable to others.

The pairing, on the 400 block of West Webster Avenue.   Photo: Ian Spula

Price: $1.25 million and $995,000

Gorgeous side-by-side Victorian row homes on a stretch of Webster Avenue have hit the market. Built in 1883, landmarked, sporting peculiar interiors, and the original façade and porches succumbing to ivy, they have the same owner but are being offered as separate buys through @properties agent Emily Sachs Wong.

Robert Friedlander bought the conjoined houses in 1970 when they were set up as one six-flat. In 1980, he returned one of them to single-family use and moved in. The conversion afforded an opportunity to implement a contemporary spin on the traditional two-story layout. Friedlander had his architect, the late Jerome Brown, design a split level for the high-ceilinged second floor, creating a partial third floor, a catwalk, and a series of landings along a curvaceous white staircase. The original front master bedroom was split in two, and a huge skylight makes the landing and loft spaces ideal for office or studio use. There are six potential bedrooms over the two-and-a-half floors, though some have been consigned to library or office.

The upstairs is a contorted retro wonder, but the main level is a more linear affair—still sporting mod light fixtures and a 1980 kitchen with white tile covering counters and the oven hood, but with rooms in familiar sequence. There is exposed brick in patches and the living room has a tall glass block window wall and double-height ceiling. Lighting is rampant with large switch consoles. “You can throw them all on and really blow up the place,” says Friedlander. “I got a little carried away.”

Friedlander has held the other row house all these years, through all the neighborhood change, as an investment property. Its three apartments with a total of five bedrooms are being offered together for $995,000 with 1970s remodeling accentuated by a fire red wood-burning fireplace, skylights, and gorgeous woodwork. The property hosted an enclave of aging artists and musicians when Friedlander swooped in 45 years ago, and the social reformer Dorothy Day lived here as a teen a century ago. Lincoln Park’s reputation as bohemian turf limped on through the seventies, but many creative types set sail for points north and west. “One of my tenants moved to Bucktown in the late 1970s,” says Friedlander. “I scouted the area and didn’t believe it would ever turn. A few years later I was buying apartments there.”

A retired structural engineer, Friedlander bought and sold apartments as a “hobby” all over town. He estimates he’s owned around 100 units, a few at a time. From buildings razed, whether through work or hobby, he collected moldings and small architectural tokens. But it’s his art collection which draws the eye—scores of framed prints and drawings, many from local artists. Now that he and his wife live in a downtown condo, most of the art will be sold or given away. For four years Friedlander has kept the house as an office and “very cool storage locker”.

Price Points: Obviously, a buyer interested in both row houses is welcome. I wouldn’t call it a long shot given how convenient the owner-tenant dynamic has been for Friedlander for so many years. It’s also easier, in some ways, than buying to rehab and convert. The single-family has another readymade income stream: a one-bedroom in-law garden unit with a separate front entrance. Surprisingly, these are the only old row houses on the market in Lincoln Park right now. Newer town homes offer an imperfect comparison, but the featured properties sit in the middle of that price range. There is no garage parking with either address but brick paved parking pads along the alley can fit three or four cars.

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