An Old House Lover Needs To Save This Historic Gold Coast Rowhouse

The 1868 home’s interior is remarkably preserved, but it’s way overdue for an update. For $985,000, get a lot of charm (and a big challenge) on Schiller Street.


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List Price: $985,000

The Property: In 1868, Chicago was booming. The Republican National Convention took place downtown. And on Schiller Street, which this old map shows as one of the city’s northernmost streets, the young architect Dankmar Adler built a set of rowhouses. Adler would go on to do some important work in Chicago, Schiller Street would become part of a neighborhood called the Gold Coast, and one of Adler’s houses would eventually be for sale, in 2013, with its interior looking very much as it would have 145 years ago.

As I note in today’s video, the home is empty now. There was a long-term owner, believed to have owned the home for over 50 years. Then, six years ago, another noted Chicago architect, Gertrude Kerbis, bought the house to restore it. Health issues made her cancel the plan, says her daughter and listing agent, Kim Kerbis.

Kerbis is well-known as a modernist—and you can see her 20th-century style and Adler’s 19th-century style blend in a tall window on the home’s north-facing front. Adler would have designed it that way for occupants using dim gas light to illuminate the rooms. Kerbis would keep it that way because the modernists were big on expansive windows. In fact, she might have designed something just like it.

She would not have matched the other original touches still extant in the house: Plaster medallions on the ceilings, the ornate trim including crown moldings and base moldings, the inlay in some of the wood floors, and the intricate limestone mantelpieces in the living and dining rooms and the basement.

The intact historic details go on: There’s an original staircase with carved trim and a walnut handrail that curves up to the second floor. There are three bedrooms on that floor (probably originally four; there’s a combo in front that serves as the master bedroom). Many of the first floor’s details extend to this level, including tall ceilings, some of them with artful plaster work. There are transoms over all the doors to let daylight penetrate into the center of the home, and great hefty wood trim on the tall windows and doors. It’s been painted zillions of times, but stripping it may reveal some terrific wood.

When Kerbis bought the home, her idea was to expand it with a master suite on a new third floor, and a family room/kitchen addition off the back. At the same time, in the basement, where there’s now a sitting room with an original fireplace, she was going to install a garage with access from the street out front. For now, the only kitchen in the house is also in the basement.

The additions Kerbis planned would turn this into a pretty great home. But on the other hand, maybe you don’t have to do all the additions. There’s enough space and character that the next owners might keep the footprint as is. Of course they’ll need to do a rehab—everything needs to be updated and upgraded. But you could put a new kitchen in part of what’s now the dining room and turn that space into a more informal cooking and family area.

While you’re figuring out what to do, I think in its present state of genteel decay—taking advantage of the dining room’s two tall double windows, which face south over a sort of New Orleans–esque enclosed garden with a large shade tree and deep back yard—the house would be a great place to host a production of A Streetcar Named Desire.

Price Points: Gertrude Kerbis paid $959,000 for the property in 2007 and, according to her daughter, estimated the cost of the additions and rehab at $500,000 to $600,000. Rehabbing the home but keeping its present size would, obviously, cost considerably less.

Listing Agent: Kim Kerbis of @Properties, 773-305-0585 and kimkerbis@atproperties.com
 

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