Like many west suburban towns, Naperville has grown dramatically in recent decades, with farmland and prairie giving way to houses. Many are McMansions, whose turrets, pitched roofs, and cavernous foyers signify the good life (if not good taste) for those who’ve moved up from split-levels and bungalows. But Naperville didn’t sprout full-blown from developers’ drafting boards. Incorporated in 1857, the community is rich in historic homes. One fine example: the Bauer Mansion, at 1520 North Loomis Street, now on the market for $1.9 million.
Once the manor of a large estate — it still occupies well over an acre — this 18-room (including six bedrooms) residence was built in 1904 by publisher John C. Bauer, who operated from Burnham and Root’s Masonic Temple at State and Randolph. In addition to putting out the popular Horse Review, Bauer got into the cut-flower business and erected several greenhouses on his 380-acre property.
Constructed by the Birn Concrete Block and Tile Company of Chicago at a cost of about $25,000, the mansion was hailed as one of Naperville’s finest — at the time, the largest concrete-block house in Illinois. Sporting a covered porch worthy of an inn, fireplaces faced in colorful glazed tiles, and stained-glass windows, the house still manifests a Midwestern soberness — grand, but not too grand.
It has had few owners over the years, and much of what made it special — from pocket doors to leaded glass — remains. But thanks to renovations by the current owner, there’s nothing staidly Victorian about it. Contemporary touches include a large, professional-grade kitchen and a family room with a retractable glass wall that opens to a bilevel deck overlooking a park-like yard with a fountain. The suburbs never looked so good.