The Highland Park Historical Society has listed one of Highland Park’s oldest houses for sale. The stout Victorian, made of local yellow-clay brick with a Gothic and Italianate stylistic swirl that was all the rage when it was built in 1871, has landmark status in Highland Park and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Located two blocks from a Metra station, the house was built on a 2/3-acre corner plot by the Highland Park Building Company, the group that incorporated Highland Park and constructed many of its early houses and public buildings. The company spearheaded a marketing blitz to sell land close to the railroad to hundreds of families in the then-quiet part of town. (Nearby Ravinia Park would not be established until 1904.)
The builders used this Victorian as a loose model for cheaper housing to come. You enter the main level through a grand foyer with a staircase, quarter-sawn oak flooring, and a 12-foot ceiling ringed by 16-inch moldings. Exceptionally wide doorways open into the parlor and a sequence of large rooms with antique windows that run almost floor to ceiling. The windows open at the top and bottom, part of a ventilation strategy for drawing in cool lake breezes and pushing out stuffy air.
The windows are almost as tall in four of the five second-floor bedrooms—the fifth is located in the old servants wing and is not so well appointed—and the master bedroom has a balcony.
Above the bedrooms you can enter a widow’s walk that balances on the sharply pitched roof. Its open deck is large enough for a few chairs and a bar cart, and it offers seasonal glimpses of lake.
The house has had only three owners in its 144-year history, and in 1968 it opened as a museum—but the museum shuttered some 30 years ago.
The local landmark designation protects the historic exterior, but a new owner would be free to alter the interior in non-structural ways, and some of that work may be eligible for historic-restoration tax credits.
Indeed, there is a pressing need for upkeep and renovation. There is just one full bathroom for the five bedrooms, and for historical accuracy the society stripped out a mid-century kitchen in favor of a truly minimal 1870s version, complete with functional hand-pump faucet and boiler stove.
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