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by Dennis Rodkin

Thy Neighbor’s House
Interlinked 30 years ago by a rehab, two Astor Street houses-one an elegant Georgian, the other a more modern residence-hit the market simultaneously

Photograph: Chris Guillen
astor street residences in chicago
Gold Coast
List price: $4.950 million (left)
List price: $9.995 million (right)

Two neighboring Astor Street houses, conjoined by a 1970s rehab, have come on the market at the same time. The brick Georgian-pictured above on the left-was built in 1911 from a design by Jeremiah K. Cady and updated two decades later by the architect David Adler. Built in 1968, the house on the right was designed for Charles Haffner (later a vice chairman of the publishing giant R. R. Donnelley) by his innovative brother-in-law I. W. Colburn.

Colburn’s design included a second-floor terrace that maximized the natural light but ate up a lot of the floor space. “Originally I didn’t mind, because I was a bachelor,” says Haffner, but starting a family changed his opinion. Around 1975, when the Cady-Adler house next door became available, Haffner and his wife, Anne, bought the place, incorporated the rear room on its second and third floors into their own home, and then, in 1976, sold the older residence to Gordon and Clara Lang.

“It’s a very unusual way they’ve been fitted together-possibly unique in Chicago,” says Nancy Joyce, the Koenig & Strey GMAC agent representing the Langs. In 2000, the Haffners sold the newer house for $8.1 million to Ron Chez, an investor, and his wife, Katherine, a real-estate agent; with design help from Marvin Herman & Associates and Suzanne Lovell, those new owners reworked the interior in an art deco motif, adding plaster moldings and two new staircases, among other things. Now ready to sell, they are represented by Jeri Dry and Jennifer Ames of Coldwell Banker.


Loaded Abode
A west-suburban “spec” house chock full of special features sets a sales record

Photograph: Dennis Rodkin
home in hinsdale
List price: $4.975 million
Sale price: $5.038 million

With its cupola, shutters, buttresses, and stucco-and-stone chimneys, this new Hinsdale home has all the charms of a fairy-tale cottage-albeit a really big, expensive one. The 8,400-square-foot, six-bedroom house, designed by Patrick Fortelka of Charles Vincent George Design Group in Naperville, set a record for the sale of a “speculative” home in Hinsdale when its builder, Jim McMahon, sold the place for $5.038 million this past September.

In “spec” homes-a house built without a buyer already lined up-builders often hold back, for fear of putting in some custom touch that the eventual buyer won’t want. McMahon took the opposite route, adding a rich array of features, including an interior courtyard, a soaring beamed ceiling in the family room, a 720-bottle wine cellar, and a stone fireplace-one of seven throughout-in the entry hall.

This was McMahon’s second Hinsdale project to sell for more than $5 million in 2006 (the name of the buyer did not appear in public records for the sale). He has another spec house going up four blocks away-priced at $5.575 million.


A Brick Uptick
Turns out, the third little pig was not only safer, but better off financially. A study by the University of Michigan’s urban planning and architecture department for the Brick Industry Association found that when towns require brick in houses, shops, and other buildings, everybody there reaps a financial reward. According to the study, two Chicago suburbs that require some brick (Orland Park and Tinley Park) have consistently higher property-value increases and municipal sales-tax revenues than two other suburbs that don’t (Streamwood and Hoffman Estates). “People make locational choices, and they lean toward the services and homes in communities with brick,” says Jason Beske, the brick group’s director of community planning.