One of the oldest, grandest and most thoroughly updated homes in Canaryville, a snug area just south of Bridgeport and a close counterpart in history and housing styles, has hit the market for $759,000. The Victorian has three bedrooms, four bathrooms, and 6,000 square feet of living space. Owner Mark Kongrecki made the home what it is today but is at a loss for how to use so much space for himself. He’s eyeing a move north and a major downsizing, likely to Wicker Park or Bucktown.
Property records have the house dating to 1875, but Kongrecki believes the structure predates the Fire by as much as 15 years. We may never know. The neighborhood, on the other hand, offers up some colorful details. Canaryville is one of Chicago’s oldest communities and grew in accordance with the neighboring Union Stockyards. Meat barons made homes here for the workweek and then fled the stench and streets pooled with blood on the weekend. Canaryville became very insular like Bridgeport to the north. It still is, though it has ratcheted down the hostility to outsiders.
Many police officers and firefighters call Canaryville home, and Emerald Avenue, north of Pershing Road, anchored the Daley clan until the mid-1990s. Today’s property is linked to a doctor who kept his practice in the old frame home next door. Kongrecki claims a tunnel once connected the two. And Kongrecki owns a food distribution business operating out of a warehouse down the block at 44th Place and Halsted Street. “That’s why I moved here,” says Kongrecki. He also saw an opportunity to apply his electrical engineering skills to a top to bottom rebuild of the house, because, although a wreck, it had historical details that merited reinvestment.
Kongrecki bought the place in 2001 for $75,000 and estimates putting about $500,000 into the rebuild. A new watertight foundation was laid; porches and the grand turret were improved; crumbling tar siding was replaced by fiber cement tile with a wood grain texture; Brazilian cherry floors were installed throughout; a new main staircase was added with floor plans shifting in concert; new mechanicals and appliances were added; the back yard was intricately landscaped; and a legal two-bedroom garden unit was created. The rent from that, even when kept low (it’s currently $1,000/month), helps defray the mortgage.
The raw attributes that Kongrecki had to work with include 10-foot ceilings, a double parlor living room (one half could be made into a library), the broad turret, a grand fireplace (converted to hybrid gas and wood-burning) and a doublewide lot. The corner lot at the top of a cul-de-sac is clipped at the back by a schoolyard, but the dense plantings, pergola, and stone paver patio get maximum utility from the collapsed outdoor space. An overgrown side lot is a buyer’s to tangle with, too, if desired. This hasn’t happened for good reason—there are porches and balconies off of nearly every room.
There is whimsy at random intervals when you pass through the property, from the day bed wedged into a window bay to the vaulted ceilings and steam room of the master suite. But the home’s third level, entirely within the turret, takes the cake. There’s a strong Turkish flavor to the interior trim and lighting, the windows each have cushioned benches, and the ceiling rises to a sharp point like a circus tent. It could be someone’s office, studio, or meditation space.
Price Points: Comps exist nearby in Bridgeport, where $700,000 to $800,000 mostly gets you new construction at around 5,000 square feet, and a few grandiose new-builds top $1 million. These are nice, comfortable homes to be sure, but they’re no match for the compositional beauty of a 150-year-old Victorian.
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