The Planetarium Founder’s Stellar Home Lands an Astronomical Price

The 1914 mansion built for Max Adler sold for a record price in Kenwood.

Photo: Courtesy @Properties

List Price: $4.9 million
Sale Price: $3.95 million
The Property: The ten-bedroom Kenwood mansion built in 1914 for Max Adler, the founder of the Adler Planetarium, sold October 15 for $3.95 million. That’s over a million dollars more than anyone has ever paid for a home in Kenwood or its sibling neighborhood, Hyde Park.

The archives of Midwest Real Estate Data show that the next-highest sale price in those neighborhoods is the $2.85 million that a couple paid in 2007 for a home that they later short-sold at a considerable loss. The third-highest price is $2.5 million, paid in 2006 for this beauty.

How did the Adler mansion snag such a celestial price? Take a look at the listing photos. They’ll put you over the moon with their grandly scaled rooms and extensive historical woodwork. There are sun rooms and parlors and window seats inside, and a herringbone-patterned brick driveway outside. The 18-room, 11,500-square-foot house stands on just less than nine-tenths of an acre in “Obamawood,” just a block north of the president’s house.

The home has serious architectural credibility: its architect, Arthur Huen, was a star of Chicago-area mansion design, working for the Armours and others in Lake Forest, top families in Chicago, and many others.

Ninety-nine years ago, Huen designed this home for Sears Roebuck & Co. vice president Manasse “Max” Adler and his wife, Sophia, who was the sister of Sears chief Julius Rosenwald. Rosenwald’s mansion was right around the corner from the Adlers’, on Ellis. Max Adler funded the launch of Chicago’s lakefront planetarium, the first in the nation, in 1930.

In 1988, the home was owned by a University of Chicago scientist who wanted $1.5 million for the house. The Cook County Recorder of Deeds’ files are confusing, but the house appears to have changed hands more than once in the next two years. By June 1990, Thomas and Linda Heagy were the owners. The Wall Street Journal says they paid $1.4 million; public records don’t show a price. Thomas Heagy was the vice chairman of LaSalle Bank at that time; later, he was CFO. He’s now retired.

The Heagys listed the house for sale in April and had it under contract by early August. The sale closed October 15, to buyers who are not yet identified in the public records. I couldn’t reach the Heagys, and their listing agent, Jan Smith, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Price Points: While the sale price bested the old record by over $1 million, the sellers originally shot even higher, asking $4.9 million. The listing for the house said it “had over $3M in renovations.” Add that to the Heagys’ reported $1.4 million purchase price, and you get a total investment of $4.4 million. Selling for $3.95 million, they recouped only 89 percent of what they had in the house.

Of course, all the splendor of living in such a sumptuous place for 23 years counts for something.

Listing Agent: Janice Smith of @Properties, 773-230-0839

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