List Price: $499,000
The Property: Built in 1916 when the surrounding neighborhood was a stylish enclave centered on the nearby South Shore Country Club, this Prairie-style house was the work of the architect John Van Bergen, whose buildings are numerous in Oak Park, River Forest, and Highland Park. This is Van Bergen’s only work in Chicago, according to Lee Bey, formerly the architecture critic for the Chicago Sun-Times and now a blogger at vocalo.org. (Bey wrote about this house in 2001, but the story is not available online.) It was the home of the ad executive Alan Miller, and it is still officially designated the Alan Miller house.
“We weren’t even aware of Van Bergen but [I] had been a fan of Frank Lloyd Wright since high school,” Criag Officer told me, looking back to 1992, before he and Eric Norris had bought the house. “I knew this was the closest I would ever get to having a Wright [house].”
Over the past 18 years, Norris and Officer have attentively maintained, restored, and, where appropriate, updated the house. They installed a new kitchen that suits the look of the house, put a new bathroom in the basement, and built a garage that mimics the house’s flat roof. As you will see in the video tour with Officer, the house retains its patterned-leaded windows, its charming built-ins and wood trim, a huge sheltered porch off the living and dining rooms, and many other original features.
Upstairs, even Officer frets that the house might be “too preserved,” in that it has only one full bath for four bedrooms. The master bedroom has a dressing room that contains a “shaving sink.” Turning this space into a full bath—albeit a smallish one—would be feasible. (There would be some rules to follow: the house has landmark status both inside and out.)
The sellers have done a lot of expensive work on the house, including replacing the roof (a costly prospect on a historical home) and a lot of rotting exterior wood, updating the electrical service, and installing both a complementary composite stone driveway and a new furnace. They even demolished the small original garage themselves. “It’s been an adventure,” Officer says.
Price Points: Norris and Officer paid $165,000 for the house in 1991; they would not say what they have spent since on the place. Their asking price stands well above the norm for homes in South Shore, where Dreamtown Realty reports the average asking price is about $175,000, and the median sale price is about $51,500. (The latter figure includes foreclosure sales, of which there have been quite a few in the neighborhood.) But the neighborhood is heavy on smaller houses and condominiums, which aren’t in the same league as this residence and some other lovely older homes in the neighborhood.