A Foreclosed Castle Just Sold for a Million Bucks

The turreted 60-room manor in Wayne, built in 1883, will need at least another $2 million to renovate.

Photo: Courtesy of Redfin

List Price: $1.8 million
Sale Price: $1 million
The Property: Holy Sheriff’s Deed, Batman, a stately Wayne manor has been sold at foreclosure.

The turreted, 12,000-square-foot castle on 15 acres in secluded west suburban Wayne, seized by the Kane County Sheriff last year from its longtime owners, has been resold by the bank, for less than half what it will cost to renovate.

Okay, it’s not the stately Wayne Manor, but still.

The baronial profile of this home, which dates to 1883, might have suited Bruce Wayne—and parts of the inside, where the walls of cavernous empty rooms crumble with water damage, look a bit like a bat cave.

The estate has a distinguished history. It was built for Mark Dunham, who got rich by importing and breeding French Percheron horses, who were the best at pulling farm equipment like the McCormick Reaper. Patterned after chateaus that Dunham and his wife, Carrie, saw on travels in France, the brick and stone manse was the centerpiece of his 2,000-acre Oaklawn Farm.

After the Dunham family sold the house in the 1950s, it was broken up into four apartments. In the late 1980s, David and Karen Armbrust bought it for $750,000, half the list price. At the time the Chicago Tribune described it as having 60 rooms, 13 fireplaces, and two sunken gardens. It was in bad shape then; the Tribune reporter noted fading tapestry wallcoverings, boarded-up fireplaces, and overgrown sidewalks.

David Armbrust said at the time that a complete rehab was to come. But 25 years later, it wasn’t finished. Photos with the recent listing and this 2012 video show damaged ceilings and walls. The building needs all new plumbing and mechanical systems, says Leslie Ebersole, the Baird & Warner agent who sold the house for an arm of the foreclosing lender, Community Bank of Wheaton-Glen Ellyn.

The Armbrusts, who were hit with a foreclosure in 2010 according to the Kane County Recorder of Deeds, were doing all the rehab themselves, “and it was going slowly,” Ebersole says.

Ebersole says that while only a few interior rooms are livable, “the foundation and the building are strong,” she says. “The building will stand for another 100 years all by itself.”

Ebersole says she did not know how the house came to be foreclosed after about 25 years of ownership, and public records reveal nothing but the loan amount: $800,000, taken out in 2007. David Armbruster has not responded to a request for comment.

The buyer is the operator of a wedding venue in a historic Joliet mansion, according to Ebersole. She says that at present, the site is zoned for a single-family home use only. There has been some pushback from neighbors on converting the property to commercial use, Ebersole says, but the buyer “concluded the sale, [indicating that he] believes that over time, the community will agree to the use of the property other than as a single-family residence.” I haven’t yet been able to reach the buyer but will add comments from him when I get them.

Price Points: Ebersole says that the lender sought several estimates of the cost of a full restoration of the home; they ranged from $2 million to $8 million.

Listing Agent: Leslie Ebersole of Baird & Warner, 630-377-1855 and leslie@foxvalleyliving.com

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5 months ago
Posted by Leslie Ebersole

Dennis thanks for such a great write-up! The Castle can become a true landmark again if people rally around the idea that preserving it is better than letting it disintegrate. Jeff Bussean has an incredible vision for the property and I hope he will be able to realize it.

4 weeks ago
Posted by shellonline

I really hope the property does not go commercial! It would be great to see it kept as a private property and I hope residents will continue to push to keep it residential only.

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