In 1905, William Carbys Zimmerman, an architect known for working in classical revival, became Illinois State Architect. Paradoxically, as he went about designing grand government edifices and numerous buildings at the University of Illinois, he was also developing a preference for modern Prairie Style in private practice. One of his best single-family houses, which could easily be mistaken for an early Wright or Drummond, is in tip-top shape and on the market in the affluent Village Center neighborhood of Glen Ellyn.
The stucco five-bed has an exaggerated roofline with a deep overhang, brown trim, and scores of original art glass windows. “We even have a few spare originals for the spots where newer windows were cycled in,” says owner Lynn Isaacson, who bought the home with her husband Randall in 2002. The gracious room sizes and gigantic fireplaces are partly a result of a 1979 remodeling and expansion. Those owners tinkered with layout and added a rear addition with about 50 percent more living space, along with a terrace, elevated walkway, and gazebo. This new protruding arm runs deep into the backyard with astonishing seamlessness. It fooled me—I took it as part of the Zimmerman design. The gazebo at the end of the slender walkway is a kind of three-season outhouse topping a storage shed with sauna, all surrounded by greenery.
Back inside, the family room attached to the kitchen maintains a rich interplay with the outdoor spaces. It is also a product of the expansion but you almost wouldn’t know it. The updated kitchen, formal dining and living rooms, and an office with window walls occupy the old footprint. The Isaacsons have a nice collection of Stickley furniture to complement the heavy wood trim and built-ins. Like most Prairie Style practitioners, Zimmerman didn’t tussle with a third floor; spreading a house out on a large lot meant two was plenty. There is an attic, but it’s an old drafty one never meant for habitation. Ditto the basement, although a portion of it is in use as a makeshift rec room (the rest is a three-car back-loading garage).
The second level manages five bedrooms all on its own. The spacious master suite has the same footprint as the family room directly below, as well as the same two walls of art glass windows. As an outcropping, there are no obstructions and the natural lighting is superb. The other bedrooms range widely in size with the largest being the old master supplanted by the new. One was clearly an anteroom leading into the master, but its fireplace makes it an adept guest room.
Pulling comps was no problem for listing agent Pattie Murray of Berkshire Hathaway KoenigRubloff. At least a dozen Glen Ellyn homes have sold for between $900,000 and $1 million in the past year and two of those were Prairie Style contemporaries. The closest match is a 1910 Charles White design, a Wright draftsman, one block from Lake Ellyn—the other highly desirable part of town.
The nest is empty for the Isaacsons and they’re headed for downtown Chicago, where they’ve never lived. “We’re going to rent in the Heritage [at Millennium Park] for a year and decide if we want to buy,” says Lynn. They also have a place in Florida—normally stiff competition, but there’s nothing quite like The Loop.