List Price: $1.25 million
Sale Price: $1.2 million
The Property: From the outside, this 1920 house in Ravenswood Gardens looks a lot like countless other homes in the city’s bungalow belt. It’s the interior that sets it apart. The foyer’s multicolored tile, heavily textured stucco, and arched ceiling set the stage for the lush, vaguely Spanish details that fill the living and dining rooms. (Click through the photos in the listing to see more of the inside.) It’s no coincidence that it’s all reminiscent of the great movie palaces that used to dot Chicago and the suburbs.
Though the house was built in 1920, the main rooms were renovated beginning in 1926 by a couple whose romance began when they both worked for Balaban and Katz, the company that built some of Chicago’s most opulent theatres. Roscoe Major was a lighting designer whose Electrical Jobbing Co. designed some of the theatres’ dramatic effects. He met his wife, Anna, when she was the organist at Balaban and Katz’s Circle Theatre in Lawndale. According to an undated magazine article, Major filled his home with up-to-date electrical gimmickry, and the couple drew on the theatres’ interiors for ideas and on the company’s tradesmen to bring them to life.
The Major family kept the home until the 1960s. In 1993, when a later owner put the somewhat worn house on the market, Jim and Beth Murphy saw it and “put an offer on it the next day,” Beth recalls. “It still looked like an old movie theatre inside. There was this [dappled] style of scenic painting on all the walls, stained glass, tile everywhere—so much work by artisans.”
The couple, owners of the Wrigleyville landmark Murphy’s Bleachers, paid $250,000 for the house in early 1994. Three years after buying the house, they completed renovations, which included building an addition off the back, and moved in. Some original details were lost in the updating: the Murphys were unable to find painters who could recreate the original paint finishes, and they replaced the main rooms’ faded linoleum floors with mixed-color slate. But they kept many of the other original touches, and when choosing new finishes, the couple tried to stay with the Majors’ themes.
The house is set in a part of the city known both as Ravenswood Gardens and Rockwell Crossing (depending on the size of the neighborhood you’re talking about). It’s within a few blocks of the CTA Brown Line and Welles and Horner Parks.
Jim Murphy died in 2003. Beth put the house on the market on February 24th of this year and had it under contract four days later. The sale closed June 7th. The buyers are not yet identified in public records.
Price Points: Michael McCallum, one of two Baird & Warner agents who represented the house for Murphy, says that, with such an over-the-top interior, he knew people “would either love it or hate it.” But he was pleasantly surprised that buyers who “really loved it” came along so fast. The $1.2 million sale price is at the high end for the neighborhood, where Zillow.com says the median sale price at the end of 2010 was about $290,000. That reflects the fact that the housing in the neighborhood includes many smaller bungalows and condos in two- and three-flats.