Like today’s tech entrepreneurs and hedge fund moguls, Chicago’s 19th-century movers and shakers certainly weren’t shy about setting themselves up in grand style, living in faux chateaus and, in Potter Palmer’s case, a veritable palace. John Lewis Cochran, a tobacco salesman from Philadelphia, arrived in the city in 1880, made a fortune in real estate and banking, and eventually built his own very fine home at 1521 North State Parkway, now on the market for $8.5 million.
Shortly after moving to Chicago, Cochran began snapping up lots in the growing Gold Coast. He then set his sights farther north, acquiring hundreds of relatively undeveloped acres and creating a community he christened Edgewater. Although he called that neighborhood home for a time, Cochran was really a downtown kind of a guy. In 1894, he moved his family into the State Parkway place, a Beaux-Arts townhouse a block from Lincoln Park. It was designed by architect George W. Maher, who had done work for Cochran in Edgewater. Best known today for his Prairie-style homes, such as the John Farson House in Oak Park, Maher was at ease with classical scale and detailing.
While unmistakably grand and formal, with spacious rooms, high ceilings, and five fireplaces, the 9,700-square-foot residence — once subdivided into apartments — has been completely renovated by its current owner, dentist Enrique Hernandez. Wall trim, ceiling cornices, and traditional lighting fixtures telegraph a historical vibe, but the thorough and sympathetic updating gives the home a clean, contemporary air. Spanning five levels, including a finished basement, the building features six bedrooms and eight bathrooms, with a dining patio off the kitchen and a masterfully landscaped rooftop terrace. And when the 32-by-17-foot living room feels too cavernous, you can escape to the den or media room. Cochran might not quite recognize the old place today, but chances are, he’d feel right at home.