Rich: in historic detail and square footage

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Lacey Sikora

Contributing Reporter

It's a common critique of historic homes that Oak Parkers often hear from their friends in far flung suburbs: older homes have great character but are so much smaller than newly constructed homes. A recent listing on the Oak Park market disproves that theory and offers up historical details with plenty of space for a family.

Located in the heart of Oak Park, 312 N. Euclid Ave. boasts approximately 6,500 square feet of living space on the three floors above ground, and even more when the finished basement and coach house are taken into consideration. Emphasizing that the home is spacious, Baird and Warner realtor Steve Scheuring, who is listing the home for $1.395 million, says he was sure to highlight the home's size in writing up his listing.

A standard real estate listing can easily convey room sizes and square footage, but it's difficult to convey the home's many attributes within space limits prescribed by the industry. This is one home where a virtual tour unveils only the tip of the iceberg in terms of architectural details.

Oak Park history

The stately house was built in 1907 for Chicago businessman Calvin Hill, his wife and their six children. A Massachusetts native, Hill moved to Chicago in 1891 to run the Chicago plant of his employer, Heywood Brothers & Wakefield Co., a furniture manufacturer originally based in his hometown of Gardner, Mass. Hill was active in local politics, and was elected president of the Oak Park Board of Trustees in 1914.

The Dutch Colonial Revival home was emblematic of many homes at that time, according to Scheuring.

"This is a transitional home," he noted. "The columns are neo-classical, but the home itself is part of the transition that so many area architects were making from Victorian to Prairie style. They were all trying to figure out where they were going to go after the stodgy Victorian era."

The home was designed by architect Norman S. Patton, of the architecture firm Patton, Fisher and Miller, which designed many area homes and also worked on the design of Oak Park and River Forest High School and Pilgrim Congregational Church.

Scheuring notes that the home's original façade was quite different from what we see today. "According to historical photos of the house, a massive front porch once ran across the front of the house. We found a village permit in 1949 to tear down the porch. My guess is that during the Depression, people weren't taking the time or spending the money to maintain the wooden porch as it collected water, so it wasn't in good shape."

History restored

In the late 1980s or early '90s, the home fell on hard times and was moving through the foreclosure process when pipes burst, flooding the entire main residence. According to Scheuring, the two successive owners are responsible for saving the home. "A local couple bought it and renovated up to a certain point. During the flooding that damaged the house, Patton's impressive three-story wood staircase at the front of the home was structurally damaged. It had to be rebuilt and supported by a steel beam in the basement. When my clients bought the home in the mid-1990s, they restored much of the home's detail work."

Those historic details begin in the foyer and are just the beginning of the highlights that cannot be replicated in modern-day construction. The barrel-ceiling foyer includes wooden arches and columns with an intricate leaf pattern at the top in the entryway to each room. The homeowners worked with an artist to restore friezes of woodland scenes at either end of the entry. The first of the home's three original fireplaces graces this room.

The living room is warmed by another fireplace and offers storage in the original built-in cabinetry with art-glass doors. The dining room's period details include a beamed ceiling and art-glass windows bearing a floral vine motif. The first floor includes a large kitchen, office and additional room. Throughout the first floor, the original pocket doors have been restored to working order.

The second floor houses four bedrooms, including a master suite, whose unique floor plan features a sitting room and walk-in closet on one end of the updated master bathroom, along with sleeping quarters and another small sitting area on the opposite side of the bathroom. A fireplace in the sitting area, just off the bedroom, still bears its original nursery-rhyme-themed tile, and Scheuring believes it points out the original purpose of the layout.

"Patton probably set up this side area of the master bedroom as a nursery. A nurse could have slept in what is now the walk-in closet and crossed over to this room without disturbing the parents."

Scheuring calls one of the other second floor bedrooms, "one of the coolest rooms I've ever seen." The trim is solid birds-eye maple, with a wooden arch separating the sleeping area from a sitting area. A built-in window seat and a private half bath make this room ideal for guests or a child.

Space to spread out

The third floor once housed the servants, but today the space is home to much more. The bulk of the floor is dedicated to family living and entertaining. A family room makes a great place to watch movies or play pool, and the adjacent room has a built-in bar with pull-up seating. This floor also includes three bedrooms and two bathrooms, bringing the home's total to seven bedrooms, with five full and three half baths.

Scheuring estimates that the home's finished basement provides close to 2,000 square feet of usable space. It currently houses an office, a recreation room, laundry room and gym as well as storage for the home's mechanical systems which includes a separate HVAC system for each floor.

Behind the home, a sizable coach house currently provides rental income. The two story building includes its own garage space, as well as two bedrooms, a kitchen, laundry and living areas.

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