The seller of this seven-bedroom house, attractive inside and out, has had difficulty finding a buyer also willing to be a caretaker for this place’s old bones. Now with a bargain price in an improved market, it may get a lot easier.
Glen Ellyn, like most old suburbs, has the railroad to thank for its early growth. The village coalesced around the depot, but, more interestingly, the rolling terrain and an eventual man-made lake made it a harmonious retreat from the city. Pond-sized Lake Ellyn, anchoring an affluent district adjacent to downtown, no longer has its hotel and isn’t known so much these days for healing waters, but the grand houses on surrounding blocks aren’t far removed from resort. One of these classic homes, on the crest of snake hill two blocks from shopping and two blocks from the lake, has been on and off the market for eight years at various prices. Puzzled, I dropped by Wednesday to find out more.
The first of my concerns—that the 4,500-square-foot Queen Anne was brittle or lacking modern mechanicals—was quickly put to rest. The house is in great shape. My next worry was aloof pricing. That was remedied by comps. $800,000 is a giveaway price considering the similarly sized vintage home up the block asking $999,000 and a range of new and old homes with roughly half the square footage priced over $700,000. The truth of the matter is a large vintage house, no matter how well kept and restored, can be a tough sell in a down market. “I think we need a certain type of person who appreciates historical houses,” says owner Lynne Adduci, who is looking to downsize. “A lot of younger people with families don’t want to inherit all the maintenance of an old house, and I understand that.”
Adduci didn’t mind getting her hands dirty bringing this masterful house back to life. In her 30 years here she has stripped down and refinished the floors, rebuilt and restored numerous original architectural pieces (including the main stairs and ornate fireplaces), built out the vaulted attic into an enormous game room and/or studio with several activity nooks, and added a family room to the back of the house, atop the garage. Almost all fixtures and finishes are original to the house, with the exception of the rear addition and kitchen. Adduci added some contextual decorative panels to the dining room and rearranged some items. She left the home’s structure alone, for good reason. “This is where you want to be if there’s an earthquake—the foundation is that thick. And the walls are actually still curing. You can’t just hammer a nail in, you need a drill.”
Built in 1893, the property sometimes goes by the rosy name “Birdwood Estate”, a reference to the great number of birds that used to congregate on the original acreage. A bird motif is rooted in the main floor, with bird-emblazoned tiles circling the living room’s fireplace and a flock etched into the frosted glass of the front door. Another sight to behold, this one sans birds, is the stained glass portrait of a young redheaded woman above the stairs. It is also an original piece, done by a contemporary of Louis Comfort Tiffany.
A word on the property’s grounds: front, side, and back yards are all well manicured and the lot is almost twice the width of the 50-foot standard for Glen Ellyn. If you commute to Chicago by Metra or plan to, you don’t have to leave the house until you hear the train coming—the station is a quick roll down the hill.
Amy Bendigkeit of Berkshire Hathaway KoenigRubloff has carried the listing for almost two years. Prior to her tenure, the asking price oscillated wildly from a high of $1.4 million in 2007, down to $799,000, and back to $1.29 million in mid-2012. All parties seem committed to getting a sale at or near today’s $799,999 ask.