Get a tour of the home, including the discussion of the secret room.
List Price: $2.9 million
The Property: This grand old home 75 yards from the Lake Michigan blufftop in Highland Park evokes the early 20th-century age of big North Shore country houses. With its peacock fan of gable beams above a cozy inglenook entry, it would have been a happy place to arrive after a long train ride or a drive up from the city in 1908, when it was first built.
Once inside, an enormous reception room connects via a sunlit stair gallery to another large reception room on the second floor. Off the first-floor reception room are grandly sized living, dining, and sun rooms, as well as a library, all of which open onto the brick porch that stretches across the rear of the house. Off the second floor reception room is a series of spaces, now configured as a three-room, two-bath master suite; a pair of bedrooms sharing a playroom (with a fireplace) and a sleeping porch; and three other bedrooms, two of them smaller, onetime servants’ rooms. Two more bedrooms and a playroom occupy the third floor. There are six fireplaces, several skylights, and original leaded glass windows and wood floors spread throughout the house.
The house may also have a secret room. While she was showing me around the house, Carole Rosenberg, a Coldwell Banker agent, revealed to the seller, Micki Silverstein, that an architect who recently inspected the house found that one rooftop skylight sits above no functioning rooms. Tapping on walls near where the skylight would be, he found what sounded to him like a room-size cavity, Rosenberg said. This was news to Silverstein, but makes some sense when you look at the house’s floor plan.
Most of the house’s 20 rooms have not been renovated in at least three decades; their acres of wood paneling, beams, wainscoting, and other trim were all painted white long ago, lightening the interior but concealing the spaces’ original Tudor décor. Silverstein, who moved in with her family in 1978, hand-stripped the numerous cabinets in the butler pantry and restored some lovely gradual arches and bookcases in the library. But otherwise, says Silverstein, she has “enjoyed living in it the way it is.” A buyer will most likely prefer to renovate—an expensive but ultimately very satisfying project. The kitchen, with two walk-in pantries and a servants’ dining room, could be turned into something more up-to-date, and the five bathrooms are dated too.
Tallmadge & Watson, the architects behind many impressive residences in Oak Park, the North Shore, and the city, designed this house. The original owner, John Grenville Mott, the head of a Chicago barrel-making firm, built the place on what was then a larger parcel of land stretching to the top of the bluff. Years later, the lakefront portion was sold off and another mansion built there. Mott’s house still has an acre and a quarter of land, as well as splendid views of the wooded bluff, a nearby ravine, and (until the trees fill out with leaves) the lake.
Price Points: The house originally went on the market in 2006 with an asking price of $3.9 million, later reduced to $3.4 million. Since November, when Rosenberg took over the listing from another agent, the price has settled in at $2.9 million.
Listing Agent: Carole Rosenberg of Coldwell Banker, 847-477-1398