With the weather warming up after a rough end to the winter—look, we’ll assuredly have another rough stretch this month, but it just broke 50 degrees—it’s time to start hitting the lakefront. Throughout Chicagoland most of that space is devoted to parks and industry, but if you want to live on the water there are options at various price points. All the way down to $54,000, in fact (though the HOA dues will get you).
A bit more than that buys a handsome condo with a spot to launch your kayak right out front, or in back, depending on how you see it. Much further down the menu is a Shangri-La from a famous architectural scion/toy designer, a bright glass box looking down over the lake from Chesterton, and finally two eras of North Shore architecture meeting in one very big house.
John Lloyd Wright was, as you might guess from his name, the son of Frank Lloyd Wright. As you might guess from this house, he was an architect. You might also guess from it that he invented Lincoln Logs. (Just look at it for a bit.) Before decamping for San Diego, Wright designed this 1940 house, the House of Seven Levels or Shangri-La, for Frank and Frances Welsh—two years before JLW and Frances Welsh divorced their spouses and got married. Where was I? Well, it looks like the house of a Frank Lloyd Wright offspring who also invented Lincoln Logs and moved to Southern California. Dad’s influence is definitely there, even more than most architects then, but it’s just, like, more chill, befitting its location.
Built in 1985, this two-bed, two-bath house, a modest-for-its-price 1,728 square feet—about a third of it represented by its 36’x16′ living room—is retro twice over: a Miesian International Style glass box with just a bit of 1980s swagger. It’s very minimalist and dead simple, with the living room on one side, the two bedrooms on the other, and the closets, bathrooms, and kitchen contained within a central core so that glass wraps all the way around. It’s a bit like a Region Farnsworth House, surrounded by green and blue and letting as much as possible inside.
Alfred Granger was a turn-of-the-century Lake Forest architect whose handsome, conservative style shaped the look of the North Shore, from the town’s city hall to train stations up and down the shore (Granger and his partner, Charles Sumner Frost, each married daughters of the president of the Chicago and North Western Railroad) to private residences. Granger designed the great room—which doesn’t not look like the great hall of a train station—of this home in 1928. 73 years later, architect Stuart Cohen, whose handsome, conservative style has shaped the look of the North Shore, completed a six-bedroom home around it. All told it adds up to six beds, 6.2 baths, and over 9,000 square feet—and a passing of the architectural torch.
Almost all of Chicago’s lakefront is buffered from the free market by parkland, but there are spots where you can buy in right on the water, like this two-bed, one-bath condo. It’s nicely appointed, with a big bungalow-esque bay window, a fireplace, and lots of kitchen counter-space, but the real highlight is being able to cross a private pier and plunk right into the lake. There’s no beach, mind, but the storage area suggests residents are eager to use their kayaks and canoes. HOA dues aren’t bad at $510 a month.
Even more rare than condos like the above are South Side condos with direct lake access, but this building has a big pier right on the water, with a sunny exercise room looking out over the lake, and it’s right next to Arthur Ashe Beach Park if you need some sand. It’s spartan with a price to match—the nicely tiled bathroom gives it some color—but the HOA dues are a bit steep at $701 a month.