The Evanston lakefront is mostly public or collegiate, but there are several blocks north of the Northwestern campus near the Wilmette line offering homes with premier private frontage. These properties are seldom on the market, and no two are the same with different cuts of shoreline, different orientation to the water, and an architectural mash-up. But wouldn’t you know it—two outstanding examples are on the market at the same time.
As I alluded to there are more contrasts than likenesses between the homes. Just three blocks separate them, but one is the signature address in private Ingleside Park, listed at $4 million, and the other is an attractive beach house secreted away behind the Sheridan Place mansion to which its parcel once belonged, on the market for $2.5 million. The first house is on roughly an acre of lawn sloping down to a 170-foot-long private beach (with semi-private beach on one side and public beach on the other), and the second house is on a compact lot with lake lapping at its fantastic deck set atop a miniature bluff.
Both houses are engulfed by the sight and sound of Lake Michigan, with nearly every room framing the water through large windows. On the blustery day I visited, high seas contributed a theraputic white noise. Both can be lived in comfortably as laid out by their architects in the 1960s, but they are small and understated structures on ultra expensive land, so something tells me heavy duty modification or teardown is on the way. “I think you could certainly put a huge home here, and a lot of the people who come through talk about doing that,” says Liz Bulf of Jameson Sotheby’s International Realty, listing agent for the Ingleside property. “My sellers weren’t going to because they shifted their energies to a different property.”
The Ingleside house is a low-slung ranch built in harmony with the contoured lawn surrounding it while the Sheridan house is a three-level midcentury cottage staged with seller Michele Russman’s art—abstract metal sculpture, wooden golems, wire mobiles, and lots of hanging rugs and prints. Her larger sculptures are bolted to the lakefront deck as enhancements to the rugged terrain. Russman spent 45 years here but now lives in San Diego. Her barn-ceilinged upstairs studio, added in 1989 and depicted in active use, attests to the volume of work made on site. An auction will be held to sell much of the art once the house changes hands, but it’s also negotiable in the closing price.
Without a doubt the Sheridan house stands a better chance of pleasing a buyer as is—there is already 3,670 square feet of living space and the house is the right size for the parcel. Anything larger would harm the fine-tuned setting. Last weekend’s open houses brought in some 50 visitors, and more than a few loved the way the home lived, art and all.
Both homes are a few decades behind in finishes and technology.
Price Points: The Ingleside ranch came on the market for $4,300,000 in May 2014 and is now listed for $3,995,000. The sellers bought at the height of the market in 2007 for $3.675 million and, while they didn’t sink money into upgrades, they did repair cumulative storm damage. The owner who sold it to them paid just $1.8 million a month earlier in 2007 and flipped it, never taking possession. “It’s unusual, but he purchased an option to buy 20 years prior,” says Bulf.
The Sheridan beach house just emerged at $2,500,000. “When you get into lakefront property in Evanston prices start above $3 million,” says listing agent Ronda Fish, also of Jameson Sotheby’s. “That’s why these smaller homes that are right on the water as so cool and unique.” Each broker had the convenience of a neighboring sale to use as comp: Fish’s was a place on another subdivided slice of former estate grounds that she sold recently for $2.1 million and Bulf’s was the fall 2013 closing of a larger teardown on a slightly smaller Ingleside lot for just under $4.1 million—sold by philanthropists and Democratic activists Charles and Marjorie Benton.