Price: $5.5 million
The historic landmarks version of a façadectomy just took place on Dearborn Parkway in the Gold Coast. The patient was the Augustus Warner House, and the outcome is glitzy new construction concealed by a restored Queen Anne and Victorian Gothic façade, on the market for $5.5 million. It is developer Bart Przyjemski’s highest-priced single-family home to date and his only rebuild of a landmark—the owner of Noah Properties has been busily erecting luxury spec houses in West Town, Lake View, and Lincoln Park but they seldom top $3 million.
Przyjemski’s original bid to demolish the “orange” rated (i.e., historically or architecturally significant) structure triggered the Commission on Chicago Landmarks to issue a preliminary landmark protection in 2012. It became a full landmark later that year. The new regulations still allowed teardown, so long as the façade was restored and replaced (after careful dismantling) and the new modern home didn’t lend any outward expression.
Mission accomplished. “This is 97 percent new construction,” says Sergio & Banks listing agent Melissa Govedarica, walking me through the home. “Even the foundation is new.” Besides the façade, the only bits original to the 1884 Warner House are the exterior stairs and one flight of limestone stairs leading to the basement. It took the better part of two years to demolish the long-vacant multi-family and build a new 7,200-square-foot mansion in its stead. This is the way new housing tends to get done in the Gold Coast. “Land is expensive and a lot of these homes are landmarked and aren’t coming down,” says Govedarica. “You have to work with community groups and the city to get a rebuild done.”
The result is a meticulous house with many creature comforts and improvised flair. Five levels of living space are filled with coffered ceilings and other custom millwork, frequently infused with LED lighting. Whites and grays make up the interior, and your eyes may need a minute to adjust to the main level, with its huge shipment of white marble and glittering fixtures. Heated oak floors fill four of five levels, with porcelain for the finished English basement, and there are fireplaces everywhere—nine of them, including three on outdoor terraces.
A partial list of features: roof and garage-top decks; a few balconies; an elevator to all floors; wine closet; sauna; media room with projection system; two bars; marble kitchen and baths; and a backup spiral staircase behind closed door.
Par for the course at this price point, all five bedrooms are en-suite. Less common is the full-floor master suite with interconnected bedroom, bathroom, walk-in, and library. This is where the elevator and hidden stairs come in handy—the master claims the second level with two levels above, and, in order for kids and guests to move to and from their bedrooms, they would otherwise have to clumsily pass through this private zone.
Then there's the basement. A second kitchen and large rec space are provided, as are bedroom and bath and the sauna and wine closet I was mentioning. The original garden entrance is preserved, making this a wholly autonomous space fit to sublet or hand over to a needy teen. The top floor is also self-sustaining, with a bedroom, bath, media room, kitchenette/bar, and large deck; it only lacks that private entry.
Interested to know more about the home’s historic elements and architectural lineage? The city’s landmark report gives a good top-to-bottom.
Price Points: On the market today in the Gold Coast you’ll find luxury rebuilds, high-end infill, and vintage wonders. For many it comes down to preferences for turnkey or fixer-upper. A couple blocks from the Warner House is the John G. Garibaldi House at 1236 North Astor Street. The 1887 red brick beauty has ultra-ornate interior woodwork and most of its original built-ins. It needs some cosmetic work, but the $3 million price tag and oversized corner lot make this a pretty attractive project. Meanwhile a new 6,000-square-footer has been for sale almost two years at 1502 North Dearborn Parkway, asking $4 million.
There’s no better context for a $5 million home than the Gold Coast, but it’s still very hard to predict the market’s reception. In a little over a week, Govedarica has had a showing or two but also cancellations. “You’re either going to sell right away or it’ll take some time,” says Govedarica. “The weather isn’t ideal right now but you list when you list.”