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List Price: $679,888
The Property: The Jackson Park Highlands is one of those South Side neighborhoods that, if you already know about it, you know it’s amazing. But if you don’t know about it, let me tell you: It’s filled with surprises, built by as many as 75 different architects who created wonderful houses on every block. That includes this treasure, a red brick California Mission-style house built in 1925 by architects Betts, Holcomb & Baron in 1927 with gorgeous detailing in the brick and the windows and a magnificent multi-arched doorway.
Inside is a lovely Mission-style foyer with curves in the ceilings, arches over the doorways, and big cutout niches for doors and windows. The foyer opens into three main rooms, a library, the living room and the dining room, which are all filled with these details and with beautiful floors. It’s slate in the foyer and wood in the other three rooms. There’s a handsome fireplace and tile work in the living room, and beamed ceilings in the living and dining rooms that look like something plucked out of one of the California missions.
The L Shaped by these main rooms embraces a walled courtyard surrounded by original brick. On one side of the court, a great breezeway runs along the house. Its tapering wood columns and two terrific twisted brick columns framing one entrance add to the old California atmosphere.
The courtyard, a unique feature of the house, is what attracted Ce Cole Dillon and her husband, Vernell Dillon, to buy the house in 2011 as they were moving to town for her new post as chief information officer at Chicago State University .“This house was so interesting because we relocated from California,” she says in today’s video, “and it’s a quintessential California house [with] indoor-outdoor living.” She also told me that in California they could never have afforded a house like this—so welcome to Chicago, Dillon family!
The house has a beautiful look now, but it didn’t when the Dillons found it. It had been vacant since a fire that left “the whole back half of the house, the dining room and the kitchen, burned down to the studs,” Dillon says, “as well as the rooms above and the rooms below.” They restored those rooms as well as five bathrooms. The kitchen is brand new. And in the dining room, although the ceiling has that vintage Mission look, it’s all new as well. “What we did was seal off the burned part,” Ce says, “and the restored the ceiling stick by stick.” They used the ceilings in the living room and the basement as a model.
Yes, the basement. There’s a very large former ballroom there, complete with Mission-style wood beams, a stone fireplace and a green terrazzo floor. It’s pretty fabulous for a basement. “We understand that the house was built for a railroad executive who wanted to have ballroom dancing in the basement,” she says.
On the second floor are four bedrooms, two pairs of two. The back two are the ones that were restored after the fire. They share two baths. Toward the front of the house are two larger bedrooms with a very large bath between them that has been redone. All the baths have tall windows all around so you can catch the breezes—which would have been important in the 1920s when there wasn’t air conditioning. The master bedroom also has a pair of French doors that open to a small Juliet balcony.
From there you’re looking over the home’s tile roofs, columns and courtyard. When you’ve got all that, who needs California?
Price Points: The Dillons paid $320,000 for the home in February 2011 and then launched an extensive renovation that included not only restoring the fire-damaged rooms meticulously, but replacing decades-old plumbing and electrical systems, re-plastering many walls, stripping layers of paint off slate floors, and even extending the garden wall—complete with wrought iron gates that match the originals—to enclose the driveway. They declined to say how much the renovations cost. Now planning a move to Georgia, where Ce Cole Dillon hopes to buy a radio station, the couple listed the house for sale in February.