A standout mid-1880s Italianate in Evanston’s Ridge Historic District was actually quite late to the party. It would’ve been among the early homes of the privileged in the area, back when wealthy Chicagoans were carving up Evanston and building gracious summer homes one corner at a time. But today’s property began life in a different location—at the site of the current post office at Oak Avenue and Davis Street. A century ago, the house was moved to Lake Street just west of Ridge Avenue.
At roughly 2,500 square feet, the dimensions are well short of gargantuan. Few builders today would exercise such restraint on a 74' x 100' corner lot. Still, it is more than enough room for the average family, and the resulting open yard and plush gardens embrace the house on all sides. Owners Yvette and John F. Kennedy (no relation) are selling because their family has doubled in size in 12 years and the kids just keep getting bigger. They also prize opportunities for restoration, one of which presented itself a couple blocks away, with 5,000 square feet to boot.
Work done on their for-sale home mainly involved sprucing up the interiors with new paint, windows, and cherry floors on the main level. The house’s footprint is unaltered, though the Kennedys did manage a significant kitchen expansion. “There were three areas—a butler’s pantry, galley kitchen, and hallway—and we busted that all out into one space,” says Yvette. The house has two staircases—one beginning in the foyer, the other in the kitchen. This isn’t that unusual, but their orientation, along with the linear upstairs layout, supports another fact of the home’s history—that it was at one point a boarding house.
“We haven’t staged the house and neither did the previous seller,” says Yvette. She insists the high ceilings, crown molding, and other elemental pieces of the old house are best experienced unadulterated. I couldn’t agree more. For a square box, architectural flourishes make all the difference.
A couple of original “Parisian flea market” chandeliers make appearances in the living and dining rooms, a style common to Evanston homes of this era. Three of the four bedrooms are distinct kid zones, but sizable and bright, and the larger master has an elegant bathroom. Back downstairs a family room is wedged between the living and dining rooms, and boasts a grand wood-burning fireplace and built-in shelving. The lower level is finished, carpeted, and parceled off for such uses a fitness room, dance studio, and a rec room.
Another key contribution from the sellers was the rebuilding of the front porch and preservation of a footbridge in miniature, with a resident troll, set in the corner of the front yard. The Kennedys call it “world-famous” in jest, but the neighborhood treasures it and hopes a new buyer will maintain it. “At this point we haven’t made that a condition of the sale,” jokes listing agent Bram Chill of @properties.
The Kennedys moved from Lincoln Park after they failed to resolve landmark disputes over their Halsted Street home. The former restaurant Tilli’s ended up flattening the house for patio space. They weren’t planning on it, but in buying the Evanston house—for $547,000 in 2002—they landed one block from the stellar Dewey Elementary (yep, there’s one in Evanston too), which, apparently, parents are forever clamoring to get their kids into.
Evanston was as suburban as the Kennedys could stomach. “We didn’t want a quiet suburb,” says John. “We wanted diversity, transit, and access to lake.” Yvette adds: “Our oldest daughter said she didn’t want to live where she couldn’t ride her bike to The Gap.”
Interested? Check out Sunday's open house from 12-2.