It is has been said that history repeats itself, and in the case of 308 N. Kenilworth Ave., that just may be the case.
When the current owners were house shopping in Oak Park in 1986, they read a story in Wednesday Journal touting the home's presence as a notable painted lady in the village. Struck by its beauty and history, they purchased the home and raised their daughter there over the next 25 years.
Now, with an empty nest, the homeowners have put the Stick Style Victorian on the market, hoping that another young couple will be charmed by its unique architectural style, historic finishes and modern updates.
A moving history
Known as the A.L. Gardner House, 308 N. Kenilworth was built in the 1860s for George B. Pratt, an Episcopalian minister in Oak Park. But the home wasn't always located on Kenilworth. Real Estate Agent Lynn Scheir, who, along with Anne Ferri from Baird and Warner, is listing the home for $849,000, says that it was likely built on Euclid.
"The Hasbrouck Sprague Survey of Historic Architecture in Oak Park dates the home to 1860, but notes that it was probably moved to its present location in the 1880s," she says. "The exact date can't be substantiated because a fire later destroyed village records from that period."
Addison Gardner, an attorney, purchased the home in 1901. Gardner left the original house intact but made a few structural changes, including adding a two-story addition on the rear of the home and a veranda to the front.
The Stick Style of Victorian architecture is considered one of the most purely American architectural styles of the 19th century. The style was popular throughout America from roughly 1860 to 1890, though rare in Oak Park. Like many homes in this style, the Gardner House was probably designed by carpenters and the original owner, rather than an architect. With pattern books used for inspiration Stick Style homes often share characteristics but are usually custom-made residences.
The style is often identified with the use of "truthful" materials, such as exposed stick work, much of which can be seen in a home's decorative exterior. Other distinctive features of the style include high, steep roofs and tall proportions. The homes are built with clapboards in an overlay of horizontal and vertical lines, and often feature diagonal lines as well. All of these features are evident in the Gardner House's colorful red, green and yellow exterior.
Ties to the past
Ferri notes that 308 N. Kenilworth retains its historical charms, pointing out the unusual bulls-eye pattern in all the wood moldings surrounding the interior doors and windows. "The owners tried to be very true to period when making changes to the home. The sconces above the original dining room built-in look as if they've always been there, but they are new."
All of the doors are original, as are the antique door hardware and the hardwood flooring. Throughout the home, historic details such as transom windows and the artistic spindle design of the front staircase have been meticulously maintained.
The upstairs bathrooms were remodeled in 2008. These redesigned rooms combine the feel of historic materials with modern conveniences. The new master bathroom features a basket weave marble floor pattern and subway-tiled walls. A second bathroom on the floor has an original claw foot tub that was refinished to complement all new plumbing and tiling.
Both Ferri and Scheir marvel at the pristine condition of a home that has weathered more than 150 years. They point out that while the historical charms are bountiful, the home has many of the amenities a modern generation looks for.
According to Scheir, the home is the best of both worlds. "For a house built in the Victorian era, the home really has an open floor plan," she says. "The dining room and living room open into each other, and French doors lead into the kitchen and family room."
The spacious kitchen includes a commercial Wolf Range, two large sinks, and a chef's island. A new mudroom home has a slate tiled floor. The current owners updated the mechanicals and made numerous improvements to the home over the years. From the roof and gutters to the brick driveway, they took on home maintenance and restoration with an eye toward the home's contributing role in the Frank Lloyd Wright Historic District.
Four bedrooms and three bathrooms offer plenty of living space, and for larger families, the potential for expansion is readily available. The full staircase to the attic and its high ceilings make it ideal for renovation into a second master suite, nanny or teenager quarters or extra living space.
A more central location in the village is hard to find. Ferri says, "The location is fantastic. You can really walk to everything from here, including the train, restaurants and the movies." Scheir chimes in, "It's an architectural treat to walk up this street."
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