In an urban suburb where space is at a premium, a house on a double lot is sure to attract attention. When that house also happens to be a spacious home designed by renowned Oak Park architect E.E. Roberts, you’ve got an even more attractive package. 

Architectural heritage and outdoor space can be found in abundance at 204 S. Scoville, recently offered for sale by Gloor realtor Pam Lupei and her husband Roger for $1,125,000.

Modern upgrades

The Lupeis moved into the house in 1988 and raised a family there. Over their 27-year tenure, they tackled some big projects and left the historical features of the home for future generations to enjoy.

In 2000, they reworked the old kitchen to make it more suitable to current cooking styles. Creating a large kitchen meant reworking spaces. “There was a wall with a butler’s pantry that we took out,” Pam Lupei recalls. “There was also a back staircase where we put the double ovens.”

The new kitchen features modern cabinetry and appliances, cork floors and a granite-topped island. An original sink left outside the first floor powder room speaks to the original look of the home.

The Lupeis also put a lot of thought into designing the outdoor spaces, with customized decks and a trellis in the backyard, which offer sweeping views of the landscaped yard and side lot, complete with koi pond. Lupei noted that the area is usable most seasons. The area is sheltered by the immense trellis with plantings on two sides, and is backed by the house on one side, so it’s tucked away from the wind.

“When it’s 40 degrees outside, it’s 20 degrees warmer out here,” she said.

Original owners

The five-bedroom, three-full-bathroom house was recently featured on the Oak Park-River Forest Historical Society Housewalk. Peggy Sinko, vice president of programming for the Historical Society, conducted extensive research into the home’s past. 

“It was an interesting house with an interesting story,” she said.

Sinko noted that a permit was taken out to build the home in September of 1906 by a woman named Mrs. Jewel, but it appears she never occupied the house. In February 1907, it was sold to the Nowak family for $13,000, quite the bargain by today’s standards, according to Sinko. 

“Wouldn’t you like that house and that lot for that price?” she asked.

The Nowaks were Austrian, and while the husband was known as Dr. Nowak, Sinko said his background was in chemistry and it isn’t at all clear that he was a medical doctor.

“He was basically a snake-oil salesman. His big thing was that he developed Gallo, a magical substance made from milk. He got a patent for it in 1907. In a series of newspaper articles in 1910 from around the country, he claimed it would keep food from spoiling and make paper water-tight.”

The Nowaks lived there until 1912. Their advertisement for the sale of the house highlighted the corner lot and the beautiful landscaping, which Sinko pointed out are still attractions. “It may not have the strawberries and fruit trees advertised in the Oak Leaves listing in 1912,” she said, “but it’s still a beautiful setting.”

The home was rented for several years before being purchased by the Haskett family in 1916. Mr. Haskett owned a dry goods business at Madison and Ashland in Chicago. He and his wife, who was active in the Nineteenth Century Woman’s Club, lived in the home with their married daughter, her husband and their grandchild. After the older couple passed on, the younger family stayed in the house until the 1950s. 

Architectural style

The house design is attributed to E.E. Roberts, according to Sinko, as are the two houses to the south on Scoville. 

“It’s very much an example of Roberts’ style,” she said. Unlike Frank Lloyd Wright, Roberts was really in the business of pleasing his clients. He tweaked everything to give them the houses they wanted. They are certainly not cookie-cutter.”

Sinko noted that the home’s unique style is evident from the exterior. 

“It’s really an excellent example of how Roberts worked in that American four-square box style,” she explained. “It’s symmetrical from the street. With its thick porch columns, stucco exterior, and Tudor half-timbering on the dormers, it looks really different from its neighbors.” 

The home has an Arts & Crafts style that is on display through the art glass in the doors, office and landing. Unpainted woodwork embellishes the first floor space, from the beamed ceilings in the living room and dining room to the bookcases flanking the Roman brick fireplace. 

Four bedrooms on the second floor are large by period standards. Two share a Jack-and-Jill bath, and the master bedroom has its own bathroom. The third-floor space, with another full bathroom, could also be used as a master suite. The large bathroom on this floor, with its original claw-foot tub, stained-glass windows, and sink was an unusual find for the Historical Society, according to Lupei. Sinko concurs.

“The third-floor bathroom perplexed us,” she said. “It’s a very old bathroom. Was it original or was it added early in the home’s history? We can’t find a permit for it. The 1912 advertisement for the house describes the third floor as a billiards room, and the Oak Leaves ad describes a large, elegant bathroom. The Nowaks did have a live-in servant, but I can’t imagine you would build a bathroom that large for a servant. Maybe the Hasketts added it because they had two families living there?”

She speculates that part of the reason so many of the original details survived is due to the history of the home’s owners. 

“I’ve found that with a lot of these houses,” Sinko observed, “families lived there for a long, long time, like the Hasketts. Now we see this as a good thing. These families tended not to do the terrible remodeling that we saw in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, which often involved ripping out crown molding and original built-ins.”

As a retired historian and an active volunteer with the Historical Society, Sinko said both the architecture and the information on early owners make her job rewarding.

“For the Historical Society, we approach our research a little differently,” she said. “Yes, the architecture and the interiors are important. We love seeing how people have adapted these homes. These are 21st-century homes; they are not museums. We’re so in awe of, and thankful for, people who lovingly restore or put back in the original features. 

“At the end of the day, though, a lot of this is about the stories. It’s cool when we find good stories like this one. Stories make the houses come alive.”

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