Price: $1.299 million

One of the sharpest old homes outside Evanston’s Lakeshore Historic District is on the market for the first time in 17 years. The 5,345-square-footer sits at the intersection of Church Street and Asbury Avenue and is cushioned against moderate traffic by a third-acre lot with a deep setback and a walled-in side yard.

It’s a Victorian but not quite a “painted lady”—at least in its façade, exuberance is expressed in raw materials over ornament. Stucco with crosshatched woodwork, the exterior points to the lumber money that built this home in 1888 as a summer retreat from the city. Few Victorians that I know of in the Chicago area compile a turret, widow’s watch, and an attic with a cathedral ceiling—another display of excess from its progenitors.

Niki Moe Horrell and her husband purchased the colossal six-bedroom house in 1997 and have put an estimated $400,000 into home improvements over the past 10 years. “We had the year of the bathroom, the year of the attic, the year of the windows, the year of the kitchen, and we’ve made continual changes to the yard and gardens,” says Horrell. And when you run out of voluntary assignments, you can count on vintage homes like this to keep on giving. The roof got targeted repairs in 2007 and the exterior was re-stuccoed in 2012.

The biggest undertaking was the transformation of the attic from spooky hideout to palatial family room and guest suite. With such a dramatic cathedral ceiling, it’s a wonder this revamping only arrived nine years ago. The space really captures the anarchy of the rooflines, and, with a rec room, reading nook, wet bar, bed and bath, is quite self-sustaining. There’s also a ladder climbing 20 feet to a panel in the ceiling that opens to a widow’s watch. It was raining during my visit, so we let it be.

All of this work merely supports the thing that draws people in: irreplaceable original architecture and finishes. The centerpiece of the home is absolutely the grand wooden staircase with explosive detailing and towering art glass windows. Its double width complements the extra wide first floor layout where a dividing wall has been knocked down and original pocket doors bring living room, dining room, office, and foyer together.

Standard ceilings height at the house is eleven feet with windows of at least six; there are a few original stained glass panels throughout the house; three fireplaces; and, a spate of vintage tile bathrooms—five in total. It quickly becomes clear that the richness of detailing doesn’t grind to a halt on the second and third floors like in many houses.

And for a large lot home you can’t get much closer to downtown. The shopping and business core is on Church Street three blocks east, with side-by-side Metra and CTA service.

Want to learn more? KoenigRubloff's Sally Mabadi has the listing. Curious about the town? Check out our recent video tour of Evanston.