If you’re as big a fan of Open House Chicago as I am, there’s a decent chance you’ve been inside The Brewster Apartments. The 10-story building dates to 1893 and is a visual delicacy with its muscular quartzite façade and crowning terra cotta frieze. The interior atrium, however, is undoubtedly what attracted mobsters, politicians, and Hollywood to the apartment block at Diversey Parkway and Pine Grove Avenue. It’s an atrium you might expect to find in a 100-year-old office or bank building (Frank Lloyd Wright’s Rookery lobby comes to mind), but even in that setting something like this would be rare. The dramatic light well features an original cage elevator serving eight floors of open steel and glass block gangways, and the units lining each have front doors and exterior-style windows to make the atrium’s inner walls read as outer walls.
The 90-unit building was converted to condominiums in 1979, long after Charlie Chaplin, governor John Peter Altgeld, and Capone rival Dion O’Bannion plied its gangways. Only one condo is currently on the market and the building rarely has more than two or three units available at one time. As a rule, if there hasn’t been activity in a while and the market is known to be improving, owners will wait to see how a listing performs before taking the plunge themselves. “I can see this sale triggering a couple others, especially after the Super Bowl,” says Century 21 listing agent Christopher Demos.
The unit for sale is a fifth floor one-bedroom priced at $219,900. The sellers bought in 2009 and are now finishing up their respective grad programs and looking to sample a new neighborhood. In Lincoln Park and East Lakeview you have small, relatively affordable vintage condos and you have million-dollar single-family homes, and it’s darn difficult to make the leap. Snagging an extra 1,000 square-feet of condo is also a very expensive proposition.
It doesn’t help that the condo market has been slower to recover lost value than the single-family market. The sellers paid $240,000 for their unit so are starting with a built-in loss. And the space is very nice thanks to bowed-out windows, hardwood floors, an updated kitchen, a den with office or bedroom potential, and a bedroom with an original fireplace. A metal slab of custom inset lighting hovers over the kitchen and granite floors match the color. The unit also has 10-foot ceilings.
The owners did nothing to the interiors but kept everything in good shape. Demos has one alteration in mind, though it would change the flow of the space somewhat. “If I were to be a long term resident here, I’d straighten out the bedroom wall and slide the entrance out another foot to be able to push the bed opposite the fireplace.” Right now it’s sort of smooshed against it.