A subdivided Lake Bluff estate finally has a buyer for its centerpiece house, a 12,200-square-foot Georgian mansion on 3.9 lakefront acres that sold late last week.
Benjamin Marshall, one half of the architectural team behind the Drake Hotel and the Blackstone Hotel in downtown Chicago, designed the 24-room house in 1911 for the president of Rand McNally.
In 2007, a developer bought the mansion and 17 acres of undeveloped land for $16 million, intending to subdivide the property and build new houses. Then the market crashed and nothing ever happened. Foxford Communities, a Hinsdale–based development firm, took over in 2011, acquiring the full property for $7.5 million in a short sale.
Foxford built up the subdivision, finishing the landscaping and selling three of the six vacant lots; the final three are now under contract. The firm also built a 7,000-square-foot French country-style house, and construction is underway on a nearby 8,200-square-foot house with private beach access.
The mansion, though, proved difficult to sell. Nearly four years of showings produced nothing but price slashes for the house and its grounds. The first dveloper had already completed a head-to-toe renovation of the mansion, so why were buyers so hard to come by?
Listing agent Jeff Ohm of Premier Realty Group points to the daunting upkeep of such a large 100-year-old house. “Size was by far the biggest detractor,” he says. “No one knew what to do with 10 bedrooms.” So Foxford spent $150,000 reconfiguring the mansion’s top floor to eliminate four small bedrooms that had once quartered servants. In their place it added a studio suite and great room. Foxford also cleared some of the trees to improve lake views.
See the listing for more photos.