A 48-year-old Evanston home, which occupies the former Daniel Burnham estate

List Price: $1.495 million
Sale Price: $1.100 million
The Property: For such a squat and unlovely thing, this 48-year-old house occupies a prime piece of Evanston property with great views and plenty of historical cachet. The lot, a third of an acre, was once part of the six-acre estate of the architect and urban planner Daniel Burnham.

When he moved his wife, Margaret, and their five children north from Chicago in 1886, Burnham bought an existing Evanston farmhouse whose grounds occupied what is now three city blocks. On its eastern edge, along Lake Michigan, the ground had been built up for protection from the lake (today’s brick-and-stone ranch house, built in 1952, occupies the north part of that rise). Thinking that Sheridan Road was going to be routed between his home and the lakefront, Burnham put up a concrete wall; the roadway was ultimately situated a few blocks west, but the wall can still be found on two sides of today’s property.

A lakefront view from the house

The house, like its two immediate neighbors, stands nine feet above the street. “Standing there, you can see the spectacular view that Burnham saw when he first came up here,” says Paul Ragi, the Keller Williams agent who represented the property in a sale that closed November 3rd. His clients were the heirs of Natalie Newberger, who died in September 2008, several years after her husband, Sheldon. Sheldon Newberger’s parents had bought the house in 1972, Ragi says.

The contrast of the wall’s grandeur and the home’s low profile give the property “mystery,” Ragi says. “People wonder what’s going on up there.” Ragi says that the heirs were OK with a buyer tearing down their parents’ and grandparents’ house, and that about 40 percent of the place’s roughly 35 potential buyers said that they wanted to build a new home on the site. But the folks who ended up buying the house—whom Ragi also represented, but who are not yet identified in public records—plan to renovate, Ragi says. A study by the heirs showed that the house, now 2,400 square feet, and the stacked soil beneath it could support a new second floor. “You could have a wonderful great room with 20-foot windows up there,” Ragi says.

Regardless of whether they add a second floor, the new owners will occupy a rare and prominent lot, with views of Lake Michigan over the bike path, a park, tennis courts, and trees, and within walking distance of the Dempster Street business district. And though the Burnhams’ house and Margaret’s elaborate gardens are long gone (demolished in 1938), the clan’s Evanston legacy remains: collaborating with other architects, two of the Burnham’s sons, Hubert and Daniel Jr., helped prepare the Plan of Evanston, which was released in 1917—eight years after their father’s more famous Plan of Chicago.

Price Points: The Newbergers’ heirs first put the property on the market in May 2009, with an asking price of $2.5 million, later dropping it by more than $1 million. The eventual sale price, $1.1 million, is 44 percent of their first asking price. Files at the Cook County Recorder of Deeds show that Sheldon and Natalie Newberger bought the house from Sheldon’s parents in 1991 for $150,000, although it’s unlikely that was the fair market value at the time.

Listing Agent: Paul Ragi of Keller Williams; 312-953-0786