West Ridge’s largest bungalow—all 5,000 square feet of it—is on the market. The four-bedroom house at 2246 West Greenleaf Avenue was built by (and home to) Fred Winter, an architect at Dahl/Steadman Construction back in the 1920s who also built another grandiose house in West Ridge at 2500 West Farwell Avenue and a two-flat right behind the for-sale house. Not much is known of his career otherwise.
According to the West Ridge Historical Society, locals occasionally refer to the house as “The Fortress.” The society characterizes the oversized bungalow, which was built in 1927, as “an eclectic mix of architectural elements, but with half-timbering and arched doorways, Tudor Revival style dominates.” The City of Chicago identified the house as a potential landmark in its 1996 Chicago Landmarks Historic Resources Survey.
A miniature replica of Buckingham Fountain (also completed in 1927) once sat in the combined living/dining room, according to the West Ridge Historical Society. Owners David Bonneau and Debra Pedersen tore up wall-to-wall shag carpeting after their 2000 purchase, revealing the piping and drainage for said fountain. The fountain itself is long gone with no indication of its whereabouts.
One of Chicago’s “Cows on Parade,” bought by Bonneau and Pedersen at the city’s 2001 auction, stands in its place. Behind is a rounded bay of stained glass windows. “It’s one of the more abused cows; I used to drag it across the country to trade shows,” says Bonneau, who runs a small computer business out of the house. (Don't worry, he will drag it away again in the move.)
The owners switched up a few rooms, tore out excess closets, and moved some walls. The master bedroom at the back of the second level was so large with so many windows that they built an eat-in kitchen there instead. The previous kitchen, awkwardly tucked behind the servant’s staircase, is now a family room. They also built out the third level with bedrooms and a bathroom for their then-teenage daughters. Now that the daughters have left, the owners will downsize to a smaller house.
While the original carved marble fireplace is not in use and hasn’t been for a long time, the sellers retained it, unceremoniously mounting on retro wood paneling in a storage area. It should work just fine, though, according to listing agent Rich Aronson.
How, readers will ask, can this fortress truly be called a bungalow? The answer depends on your working definition. The eye test says it’s a juiced-up, extra-ornate bungalow, given its length, profile, and roofline. But it meets just half the criteria cited by the Historic Chicago Bungalow Association—it’s built between 1910 and 1940, has a lot of windows, an offset entrance, and some association with the Arts-and-Crafts movement.
The missing stylistic traits to truly earn bungalow status are the height and the exterior. Bunglows are typically one-and-a-half stories, their exteriors brick with stone trim. This house stands three stories above ground and sports a limestone, slate, and concrete exterior. It also has no basement, and bungalows are known for having full, livable spaces below ground.
The house is whisper-quiet, thanks to 15-inch concrete walls and 5.5-inch concrete floors, and private, since most of the living is done on the second floor. In lieu of a basement, the first floor holds the furnace, hot water heater, laundry, and storage rooms.
Bonneau co-opted the attached garage, quite rare for 1927, for his home office. The sprawling space also accommodates a bar, kitchenette, and hot tub. There’s no parking on the property, but it is possible to convert this space back to a garage if needed.
Or you could build a garage on the yard facing the alley. According to CostHelper, a consumer information website, a simple one-car garage costs around $8,000; a two-car will run you closer to $15,000.