The real estate market of the past few years has been full of swings, and if the re-listing of an Oak Park landmark is any indication, perhaps it's time for a comeback.
Frank Lloyd Wright's George Furbeck Home, at 223 N. Euclid, first hit the market in the spring of 2010 at a price of $1.1 million. A year later the price was reduced to $799,000, but there were still no takers. Off the market for a whopping 13 months, the home was recently relisted at $949,000.
At first glance, it's hard to figure why the home of a famous architect has languished on the market for so long. The house is one of a pair commissioned from Wright as a wedding gift from Warren Furbeck to his sons George and Rollin. Built in 1897, it bears many hallmarks of Wright's transitional stage, marking his movement from the more traditional Tudor and Victorian styles of the time to his signature Prairie Style. The unique perspective of Wright in transition created a home with higher ceilings than his later work, and, combined with his distinctive art glass, brick and wood work, it's truly one of a kind.
New listing agents Laura Talaske and Jan Kerr, of Better Homes and Gardens Gloor Realty, say recent improvements coupled with a more robust market should interest potential buyers this time around.
The price is Wright
According to the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, there are currently a few other Frank Lloyd Wright homes on the market in the Chicago area, including the William E. Martin House in Oak Park, which is also being listed by Talaske at $1.295 million. Other area Frank Lloyd Wright homes that have recently been on the market include Riverside's Avery Coonley Home and Hyde Park's Heller Home, both of which were priced at over $2 million. Situated across the street from the grounds of the Cheney Mansion, the Furbeck Home's closest sales competition is a neighboring Euclid Avenue dwelling that just listed for $1.395 million.
While the Furbeck Home seems like a veritable bargain in comparison, Kerr and Talaske readily admit its price reflects the need for some cosmetic updates.
"It first came on (the market) in the depths of the real estate slide, and at that time, the owner of over 40 years was still living in the home with all of her belongings, and it was difficult to stage it. Now, it's cleaned up and you can see the beauty of the home."
Kerr says the home has been updated throughout. "Systematically, the house is in great shape. Every mechanical system from plumbing to electric has been updated, and the owner just installed central air conditioning with two zoned Space Pac systems." She added the home also has a new roof.
Big ticket items that a new owner might want to tackle include the kitchen and three bathrooms, and Kerr notes that this time around 223 N. Euclid is priced accordingly.
"In this type of bracket, people looking at homes with redone kitchens don't always like the style because it's not done how they would do it. The nice thing about this home is that the kitchen is a large space and the bathrooms are already in place, so you could move in and do the work to your own taste."
One area of the home that needs no updating is the original details that Wright imbued in his design. According to Talaske, the long-time owners bought the home in great condition and took pains to make sure any changes were historically accurate.
"The owners were active with the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust and were careful to keep the home pristine," she says. "Any time they had to do work, they reached out to people who were appropriate to do work on a home of this significance."
All of the home's original woodwork remains unpainted, and Wright's original art glass is untouched. Kerr notes that the art glass is believed to be Wright's first pattern that he designed himself. Windows, French doors and panes in many built-in cabinets still display Wright's block-themed glass motif.
A repeating octagon shape is another unique feature of Wright's design.
"He played with the octagon shape a lot," says Kerr. "It's in the two turrets, and the library is an octagonal shape as is the living room. The two vestibules in the dining room are octagons cut in half."
Wright's original wood built-in cabinets are still in place throughout the first floor and include a secretary and bookshelves in the library. Two of his signature Roman brick fireplaces grace the living and dining rooms, while the upstairs bedroom features a third decorative fireplace.
The design details aren't limited to the interior. The exterior also boasts many unique touches, including Chicago Common Brick used on the exterior, a stepped limestone foundation, a striking rectilinear chimney and overhanging eaves.
Talaske notes that the home has transitioned easily into the 21st century.
"It was a transitional house for Wright, coming at a time when he was working on Tudors and Victorians, and his early Prairie influences are seen throughout," she says. "The beauty of this design is that it fits today's lifestyles so well. Today's furniture fits right in."