The estate of the late famed geneticist Janet Rowley and husband Donald Adams Rowley, a physician, is for sale in Hyde Park for $1.575 million. Owned by the Rowleys since 1965, the classic turn-of-the-century five-bedroom is much the same as in the year of its construction.
Dr. Janet Rowley contributed pioneering research on chromosomal translocation that implicated it in the development of cancers, particularly leukemia. The story goes she made her breakthrough over the kitchen table while attending to her sons’ breakfast. This discovery ultimately earned Dr. Rowley the National Medal of Science.
Meanwhile, the Rowleys’ recognizable contributions to their home began with a 1960s kitchen, “probably high end for the era” according to KoenigRubloff listing agent Robert Sullivan, and a rear conservatory—part greenhouse and part porch. Otherwise they delivered gradual restoration and steady upkeep to a deserving dwelling. “Old time Hyde Parkers and academics were happy to let things sit,” says Sullivan. “People coming in will likely want to redo the kitchen and bathrooms.”
The house is a large box, with full second and third floors. Big, open hallways make careless use of the 4,200 square feet. And that’s okay—it’s a gracious aesthetic that’s largely been lost in newer layouts. On the main level, there’s a show of wealth in wood cladding: mahogany in the living room (including a very heavy pocket door), and oak everywhere else. The living room was the showpiece in olden days, and so it sported the finest woods, fireplaces, and mantles. Today “no one really goes in these living rooms… I actually encourage people to make an office of it or drag in a flatscreen so it’ll get used,” says Sullivan.
A magnificent staircase with art glass windows invites people upstairs. Each residential floor begins with a central foyer and has large bedrooms, bathrooms and closets radiating off it. The master suite is paired with a library and a balcony facing the backyard. The home’s third level has a sprawling double-wide bedroom that would be the natural master if it came with an en suite bath.
Dr. Rowley was a dedicated gardener. It sure didn’t hurt to have a ¼ acre city lot to work with—the land is divvied into beds, berms, lawns, groves, and a koi pond hides beneath some low hanging shade trees. Clearly, the Rowleys’ interest was in maximizing their green space, because there’s no garage or driveway. But the alley makes it easy enough to tack on a garage, large or small.
Another selling point is the block of South University Avenue on which the house sits. It’s a tranquil large home block and “a hidden jewel in the neighborhood—a one-way block neither on campus nor in Kenwood,” says Sullivan.
Price Points: Since listing for $1.575 million on May 11, there’s been quite a bit of interest. Comps in the area include a like-sized property on the 5500 block of South Woodlawn Avenue, once rented by leading nuclear physicist Enrico Fermi and now listed for $2.34 million. A block further south on Woodlawn, Sullivan holds another listing for a sublime brick Foursquare last asking $2.15 million and now under contract. Today’s featured home has price and land advantages, not to mention the sleepier block.