List Price: $599,000
Sale Price: $450,000
The Property: The Wood-Maxey-Boyd house, a Prairie Avenue treasure from 1885, has a new owner—only its third. George Krol, a New York doctor with family here in Chicago, says that he bought the 24-room home to restore its proud heritage and be near his grandchildren. Since closing on the house on June 10th, Krol and his family have been sifting through old documents found in the carriage house and going over plans for a restoration, which may cost more than $1 million.
The house was priced at $850,000 a year ago—when I conducted a video tour of the place—but after a few cuts, the asking price landed at $599,000. Built by a lumber baron, the massive house has many vintage features intact, including the woodwork of its three-story central foyer and staircases. But there is no working kitchen and only one tiny functioning bathroom.
Despite the many years of neglect, the house, surrounded on three sides by city-owned vacant lots, remains a commanding presence in its Douglas neighborhood. “I intend to preserve it the way it was if I can,” Krol says. “But at this point I just want to grab hold of it and go [through a] process of discovery. I don’t know what every part of the house will be, but I’m planning to do a small museum within the [house or coach house] devoted to Maxey. ”
That’s Alva Maxey-Boyd, the woman who bought the house in 1948 with her husband, Charles Boyd, and lived there almost until her death in 2009. She was the driving force behind the house receiving landmark designation, and she hosted many young African-American scholars in the house over the years.
A Polish immigrant, Krol has resided since 1970 in New York, where he works at Memorial Sloan Kettering; he lives in an 1895 home in Mamaroneck, New York, that he restored. “It wasn’t as serious [a] restoration, but again, I was trying to bring it to the original flavor or look,” he says. With a daughter and her family living in Chicago and his retirement on the horizon, he says that he wanted a project here. “I know nobody wanted to touch [this] house with a ten-foot pole,” Krol says. “But I like old things, and it’s amazing inside. It’s just amazing that these two people [the Boyds] were able to save it.”
Price Points: Because his plans for the house and coach house are not yet fully formed, Krol would not estimate what his total investment will come to. “I’m going to continue what Maxey was doing, fixing one thing at a time,” he says. “It’s not going to happen overnight; it’s going to take years”—although the first step is to install a working kitchen and bath. Fred Scovell, who represented both the buyer and the seller in this transaction, estimates that the house could be updated for as little as about $750,000, but that doing the job thoroughly will cost $1.2 million or more.