This week Oscar Mayer announced it will move its headquarters from Madison, Wisconsin, back to Chicago. Perhaps its CEO will pull up in a Wienermobile and reclaim the original Oscar Mayer mansion as well.
The neglected landmark on Evanston’s Forest Avenue, home to Oscar Mayer Sr. from 1927 to 1965, is being restored just in time for such a thing to happen. New owners Jim Kastenholz and Scott Hargadon, a general contractor and real estate lawyer, respectively, purchased the 7,400-square-foot turn-of-the-century house in June. They hired architect John Eifler, whose team has rehabbed projects such as the Music Box Theatre and Garfield Park Conservatory, to lead the effort.
“We’re five percent done with the actual restoration,” Kastenholz says. When I visited the construction site Thursday, the crew had stripped away plenty—carpet, wallpaper, drywall, plumbing—but just the windows, 90 of them, were finished.
“I walked through and fell in love because the original woodwork, light fixtures, fireplaces, radiators, and door and window hardware are all here,” Kastenholz says. “And most of the woodwork had never been painted.”
The last remodel of the kitchen and bathrooms dated to the 1950s or ’60s, which makes those spaces easier to rework since there aren’t several layers of “improvements” to navigate, according to Kastenholz.
The partners paid $1.1 million for the six-bedroom house after it had initially listed for $1.75 million in December 2014. Kastenholz estimates the construction costs will hover around $1.1 million, which includes a small addition, new mechanical systems, and roof repairs.
The partners don't know yet what they will list the house for after the restoration, but similarly sized properties in the area have recently sold for between $2 and $3 million. Take this 4,300-square-foot house on Lake Shore Boulevard, which sold for $2.8 million in May, or this nine-bedroom property on Sheridan Road, which sold for $2.3 million in June.
Because the house holds landmark status, new owners cannot demolish the property, alter the exterior, or do any major interior restructuring. Since the kitchen and bathroom fall under a "quality of life" exemption, you can upgrade those. The pair plan to list the house in the spring, and the place should be move-in ready by late summer.