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List Price: $950,000
The Property: When you come to the Jackson Park Highlands, you travel back in time, to an era when people were building grand homes in the city.
And it’s especially true in today’s house, where there is so much intact from the time it was built in the 1910s. The home has had two multi-decade owners and in between them, one short-time owner. Thus: nobody ever messed with it.
The living room looks like a period piece, with handsome wood tracery on the ceiling, crown moldings and a hefty fireplace flanked by book cases and leaded-glass windows. The dining room and library have sumptuous paneling and more leaded windows. One thing that has been changed: a small open porch next to the dining room has been turned into indoor living space.
Before the days of air conditioning, the porch opening would have helped encourage cross-ventilation through the house along with the two pairs of French doors in the living room that open onto a very large porch. This one is still screened, a nice place to commune with the enormous lot. The house is on the equivalent of six city lots.
The kitchen was updated decades ago—and in today’s video, I point out how its past catches up with the present: There’s a wonderful vintage stainless steel drainboard and a brand new stainless steel dishwasher. Stainless is back, but it was already here in this house. The kitchen is laid out as three rooms: two pantry areas and a main room in the center. A buyer might do some reconfiguring for today’s lifestyle. That might include creating a sitting area in the kitchen because one thing that’s missing is a modern-day family room next to the kitchen.
Because of the age of the house, the family room is in the basement, but it’s not second-rate. There’s a substantial brick fireplace flanked by two built-in wood benches, and overhead are wood beams. The most important detail that really brings this below-ground room up to the level of the main house is the windows on both sides of the room, which feature stained-glass panels depicting castles and ships. Although they’re in the basement, they’re the nicest windows in the house.
That’s not to suggest that the windows are any slouches on the two upper floors. In the master bedroom are two walls of windows where one of the sellers, Dietrich Muller pointed out that because the house is in the middle of a big, tree-filled lot, you don’t see any neighboring houses.
The master is one of four bedrooms (and two baths) on the second floor. Everything is in relatively vintage condition, but updated with what you need: air conditioning and new plumbing fixtures. But while updating the baths, they paid respect by keeping two really cool old bathtubs.
The third floor, originally servants’ quarters, has four or five rooms that you can count that as expansion space, along with the separate coach house, whose second floor is living quarters. All together, there’s enough room that you can use to create whatever spaces you find missing from this vintage home. But because all that space is outside the reach of the original vintage details, you’re not going to have to mess with any of the great, intact character of the home when you update.
Price Points: Dietrich and Renate Muller bought the 5,000-square-foot house in 1977 for under $100,000—far less than they’d have paid for something similar in Hyde Park, where they were moving from. (Dietrich was a University of Chicago professor until his recent retirement.)
Now that their kids are grown and they want to downsize, the Mullers put the house on the market in May at a price that again reflects the savings to be had by crossing Jackson Park going south. Here’s a home in Hyde Park—one-quarter smaller and attached but, admittedly, in a prime part of the neighborhood—that sold over the summer for $1.35 million. Here’s a Hyde Park condo asking about the same as the Muller house. Again: superior location, but look at how much less space—both outdoors and in.