A bit of River Forest’s history recently hit the real estate market, offering a buyer the opportunity to live in a home filled with local interest.
Appropriately located on Thatcher Avenue, the David A. Thatcher home was built in 1883 for one of two prominent Thatcher families who settled on the prairie west of Chicago at the same time.
While the home offers an impressive amount of square footage – 3,800 square feet, including five bedrooms and 3.2 baths – it also offers plenty of historical details. The first owner, David A. Thatcher, was the son of River Forest founding father David C. Thatcher. David C., one of the original settlers of what would be incorporated as River Forest in 1880, moved to the area in the 1850s, purchasing 640 acres on both sides of the Des Plaines River. David C.’s own home, a more simple country house built in 1858, still survives on Edgewood Place.
David A. married the daughter of Solomon Thatcher Sr., another of the village’s founding fathers, while David A.’s sister Clara married Solomon’s son, intermingling the previously unrelated families. Today, many of Thatcher homes survive throughout the village. These first and second generation dwellings remain important parts of village history.
David A. was a paving contractor, and many believe he may have had a hand in planning the design of his home. The home was originally designed in the Queen Anne Victorian style with a peaked roof, cupola and traditional front porch.
John Barton, an executive of the Elgin Watch Company, and the second owner of the home, drastically changed the exterior in the 1920s. He removed the cupola, changed the roof line and added a deep front porch framed by massive, two-story white columns.
Local lore says that the large columns were floated down the river and then delivered to the house via a six-horse drawn cart while interested bystanders lined Thatcher Avenue. The distinctive white columns continue to draw the interest of people passing on the street.
Frank Lipo, executive director of The Historical Society of Oak Park and River Forest, notes that the home’s two distinct exterior designs make it unlike any other in the area.
“Already one of the grander Thatcher homes in the village, this thorough renovation in the 1920s created an exterior that in itself is a landmark design,” he says. “There are very few homes in River Forest and Oak Park that bear the mark of this Colonial Revival, Southern Plantation Style. Everyone who drives by remembers the house with the impressive columns.”
The interior of the home contains much of the original Victorian details. Thirteen foot ceilings add a feel of spaciousness to the rooms, and light floods through the tall windows. Four fireplaces help warm the home in the colder months, and original brass hardware sparkles with detail.
The home’s original woodwork adds to the appeal of the past. According to the current owner, the legend is that Pullman Railroad Company woodworkers crafted the home’s intricate woodwork, as the Pullman and Thatcher families were good friends. Two sets of double entry doors have had their cherry wood restored, and the entryway retains its original cherry wainscoting and thin-stripped red oak floors.
Throughout the home, decorative plaster work in each room has a distinctive design. In the entry’s vestibule, plaster wainscoting bears an intricate, flowered design. In the library, the molding around the windows and pocket doors includes carvings of insects and flowers. In the dining room, a third design features fruits and vegetables.
While the original details will excite any old house aficionado, the home has been updated to provide modern conveniences. In the remodeled kitchen, carpenters replicated the dining room’s restored original wainscoting to tie the two rooms together. A family room attached to the kitchen as well as a billiards room and three-car garage make this home ready for the way families live today. A new sunroom and first floor powder room add to the livability of the space.
The current owners, did not want their names printed, have enjoyed a lifetime of memories in the home. “It has been a wonderful warm family home and a great house for entertaining, from a wedding to many family gatherings and lots of parties large and small. The history and the details throughout the home truly make it a very special place to live in and we have tried to bring it back to all its’ glory. The layout also makes it great for modern living”
Realtor Susan Maienza, of Gagliardo Realty, stresses that the appeal of the home makes this a unique opportunity for the next owner.
“As a realtor for a quarter of a century, it is great to represent this truly special home. The home is really incredible, it’s in a park-like setting, and the block has so much to offer,” says Maienza, who is listing the home for $1.575 million. “This is a great place to raise a family.”
Lipo agrees that the David A. Thatcher home represents a once-in-a-lifetime chance to own a bit of history.
“This home, with its Victorian interior and Colonial Plantation exterior represents two different chapters in history. This is a great chance for a future owner to unpeel layers of history.”