Directly west of Chicago’s city limits are the neighboring suburbs of Cicero and Berwyn. The communities have long been associated with Czechs, who migrated west from the Pilsen and Lawndale areas before they eventually settled here. By 1930 they accounted for 25% of Berwyn’s population. Many of them worked at the Western Electric Company’s Hawthorne Works factory complex, which enabled them to buy their own homes, mostly brick bungalows, that still line the streets today. It’s the reason why people are drawn to these two suburbs: interesting and historic residential architecture at afforable prices right next to Chicago. So let’s take a look around!
Cicero has a rich history with Al Capone and the Chicago Outfit so it’s no surprise this beautiful 1920s Mediterranean Revival bungalow has a story to tell. Census records suggest that the house belonged to “Capone’s personal attorney,” a Bohemian immigrant named Joseph Lustfield, who lived here with his family and live-in help through the 1950s. Lustfield shows up in the record as representing Ralph Capone, Al’s older brother—as well as the Village of Stickney and Cicero itself, not to mention the Hawthorne race track. (The Census records also suggest Lustfield’s home was worth $16,000 in 1930, or about $255,000 today.) Even with that interesting background, the home is stunning architecturally as little has changed on the inside. Original historic details include a spiral staircase, wrought iron accents, stained glass windows, domed ceilings, two-story living room with Juliet balcony, hardwood floors, plaster walls, light fixtures, and built-ins. Plus a vintage pink-tile bathroom with tub and shower. What a house!
Talk about a time capsule! Located on four lots in Cicero’s Boulevard Manor neighborhood, this midcentury split level was built by its current owner in 1959. Original details include colorful front windows, marble tiled foyer, wood plank ceiling and stone fireplace in living room, and wood paneling and a classic wet bar on the lower level. The bathrooms might not be updated but they are a decent size considering the time period. Not only does this home scream nostalgia, but it’s perfect for people who are looking for soul and character in today’s culture of gut jobs and HGTV renovations.
I’ve always been fascinated by building conversions, especially the church-to-home renovation trend. It’s a great way save a historic structure, while also giving it new life. So the former rectory of Our Lady of Charity Catholic Church, designed by Thomas Mulig of the architectural firm Naess & Murphy, is right up my alley. The parish and school are still alive and well in Cicero but the 5-bedroom, 5-bathroom rectory, built in 1954, is available on the market for the first time. An imaginative buyer can turn the building into a single-family home or use it for public or non-profit purposes, like a charitable or educational organization. So many possibilities! And all for just $299,000. You can live like a priest without, you know, having to take a vow of obedience.
Today many bungalows have been “HGTV-ed,” stripped of the craftsmanship and historic details that made them special in favor of current trends like open floor plans and everything white. That character is the reason why people love living in bungalows, my own family included. So it’s refreshing to come across one that hasn’t been gutted or compromised of its architectural integrity like this 1919 brick bungalow in Berwyn. There are charming exterior details like the craftsman brackets and light-colored brick with terra cotta ornamentation. Although I was disappointed not to see a fireplace inside, there are still plenty of historic elements that survive like the unpainted woodwork, original doors, and a pink-ish bathroom.
Now for something completely different! This 1925 brick bungalow in Berwyn might not be my cup of tea but it’s perfect for people looking for exterior historic charm (look at that curved bay window!) with updates galore on the inside. I’m familiar with the bungalow type where the front stretches the entire length of the facade and the entrance is on the side. That explains why there is a staircase in the middle of the room. All the interior walls have been removed to create an open floor plan with all the living spaces flowing together. The modernized kitchen has a distinctive coffered ceiling, custom 42” soft close cabinets, Samsung stainless steel appliances, and a premium quartz waterfall island. The upstairs bedrooms and bathrooms have been fully renovated, while the basement has a brand-new entertainment room with wet bar.