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This Glorious 1874 Italianate in Old Irving Park Is a Bargain

The five-bedroom, five-bathroom mini-mansion was once priced at $1.499 million—now, it’s yours for $839,000.

The 5,800-square-foot, fully renovated Stephen Race House, on Tripp Avenue near Irving Park Road.   Photo: Ian Spula

It was back in 2007 when owners Brad Maury and Mark Jones first listed the Stephen Race House in Old Irving Park, asking a million and a half dollars. Three listings and four years later, they had decamped to Los Angeles. Now, the approximately 5,800-square-foot brick Italianate is back again, with an asking price of $839,000—just over half of that September 2007 target.

Let’s take a step back to see how such a magnificent house ended up in Chicago to begin with. Stephen Race was the brother of Charles Race, one of four New Yorkers motivated in 1870 to subdivide and develop farmland as an exclusive suburb with passenger train service to downtown Chicago. Development picked up when the Great Fire hit the reset button. By 1889, in lockstep with rapid urbanization, Old Irving Park was annexed by the city.

Now, this five-bedroom Race house is the sole survivor of a row of grand homes built along Irving Park Road. In 1905, Race moved to this quieter stretch of Tripp Avenue, which probably accounts for the home’s longevity. Unlike one gracious wood-frame Italianate farmhouse in the southern portion of the neighborhood, the oldest still standing, you can tell this more upright brick Italianate was built with suburb, not farm, in mind. Instead of the wide wraparound porch, there’s a less fussy but still very handsome front porch and entryway.

The home’s slight setback, high ceilings, and raised English basement lend it a striking verticality. Arched extra-wide doorways also make a big impression on visitors. There are inlaid hardwood floors throughout the main level, and a cushy living room, family room, library, lower level media room, and spa baths.

The all-new kitchen has a combed black granite island, white cabinetry, pantry, and high-end appliances. A previous owner gave the home a two-story rear addition, and Maury and Jones further integrated it into the original structure by extending the inlaid hardwoods. They also re-created several elegant stained glass windows with the help of local artisan Frederick Redinger—the rectangular and elliptical cuts appear above doors and other windows, and in the main stairwell.

Another space with undeniable appeal is the master suite in the built-out attic. Maury and Jones handled this, too, with enough vision to include several skylights in the gently pitched ceiling, a sit-down steam shower, double vanity, and a pair of closets. It’s a 600-square-foot retreat.

Given the vast improvements to this real estate—some $350,000 in renovations—the biggest remaining undertaking is stocking the 3,000-bottle wine cellar. “Believe it or not, they [Maury and Jones] had it jam-packed and inventoried,” says KoenigRubloff listing agent Heather Lange, also a neighborhood friend of the sellers.

And what of the neighborhood? “It’s the perfect spot to have more property, with a suburban feel, yet remain more convenient to downtown than Andersonville or Boystown,” says Maury. True enough. Metra and Blue Line stations are two short blocks east.

Price Points: The new asking price climbs a little above the last listed price of $779,000 in September 2011, but remains far below the attempt at $1.499 million in 2007. It reflects the current market, and it’s tempered by a couple of major hurdles: the lack of a garage or backyard. Still, there’s more lot and greenspace here than you can find for the price in Bucktown or Lincoln Park.

The drop may look extreme, but the earlier pricing clearly wasn’t working. The 1856 Gray mansion cited above—the only Old Irving Park home predating the subdivision of farm—offers living space comparable to the Tripp Street property but with a 3-car garage and more than twice the land. A sale is pending near the last listed price of $1.495 million, down from $1.79 million in September.

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