When it was built in 1904, 620 N. Euclid Ave. in Oak Park was meant to be a showstopper of a mansion, and for much of its history, the home has remained one of Oak Park’s finest estate homes.
Located in the heart of the Frank Lloyd Wright Prairie School of Architecture Historic District and clocking in at over 10,000 square feet, the home has the architectural pedigree and size to command attention.
Designed by E. E. Roberts and situated on a 100-by-175-foot lot, the house includes a carriage house and third-floor ballroom. Recently, the home has hit some hard times, but a foreclosure and recent price change might make this the ultimate opportunity for a historic home lover to make this house a home again.
The home was built for industrialist Henry Caleb Todd and his wife Lizzie. According to Frank Lipo, executive director of the Oak Park River Forest Historical Society, after getting his start in the coffee business in his native Massachusetts, Todd moved to the Chicago area where he founded the Chicago Fire Proof Cover Company on Canal Street in the Loop.
Along with his partners, Todd achieved significant financial success in the manufacture of products such as asbestos and fire proof paint.
“As grand as the estate is now, when it was built, it was even more significant,” Lipo said. “The lot fronted 125 feet on Euclid Avenue and went all the way back to Linden Avenue. It was a massive parcel.”
At the time he designed the home, Roberts was a 38-year-old local architect who had worked in Oak Park for 11 years. Over his career, he designed more than 200 homes in the area.
Lipo says that this house is one of Roberts’ grander and larger homes.
“It looks like a traditional Tudor in some respects on the outside, but on the inside, there is a lot of arts-and-crafts woodwork and high-end glass with motifs from nature,” Lipo said.
The home features seven bedrooms, six full baths, two half baths, two elaborate staircases, five fireplaces and a wood-paneled dining room.
“The house inside is absolutely fantastic,” Realtor Mark Ahmed, said of the home’s historic style. “To me, it looks like a castle.”
The home has been featured on multiple Oak Park housewalks, and in 2005 was the site of the Oak Park Infant Welfare Society’s Showcase House, a now defunct event in which local interior designers redecorated a significant area home, with tour proceeds benefitting the IWS’s Children’s Clinic.
The home’s second owners, Clarence and Kathryn Funk, would no doubt have approved of opening up the home to benefit local charities. Kathryn was widely credited as being one of the founding members and manager of the Economy Shop and also helped found the Oak Park Symphony Orchestra. Clarence was instrumental in fundraising for the Chicago Theological Institute.
They lived in the home from 1913 until their deaths. Clarence died in 1930, and Kathryn died in 1941. When the home sold in 1943, the property was divided into two parcels, one fronting Euclid, with the house, and a lot fronting Linden.
Sales and tax history
The sales and tax history of the home as reported on Zillow show the mercurial rise and fall of an Oak Park estate home in the real estate market since 2000.
In June 2000, the home sold for $970,000, and just four years later sold for $1.7 million. Over that four-year period, the annual property taxes increased from $17,632 to $25,227. The taxes continued to steadily rise, with a jump of 77.7 percent in 2006, when they rose to $44,833. By 2016, the property taxes were $66,249.
In August 2017, the home was in foreclosure and listed by Coldwell Banker for $1.5 million. With no serious buyers in sight, the home was relisted with Mark Ahmed of Century 21 Affiliated in March of 2018, with a big price drop to $999,900.
Ahmed says the high property taxes have played a role in the home’s inability to find a buyer, but does not think that should be a deterrent to someone who loves the house.
“Definitely, the high tax amount is probably contributing to why it hasn’t sold yet.” Ahmed said. “When a property goes into foreclosure, there is no one to appeal the taxes, and Cook County raises the taxes if you do not appeal.”
Ahmed consulted with a firm specializing in property taxes who advised him that for a home this size, in this neighborhood, a more appropriate property tax bill after appeals and with a homeowner’s exemption would be in the $33,000 to $39,000 range.
Lipo said that, historically, the house has had history of sitting on the market, beginning with Lizzie Todd listing the house in 1912, after her husband’s death in 1909. The house sold to the Funks in 1913. After Kathryn Funk died in 1941, the home was not sold until 1943.
“In some ways, it has been difficult to sell because of its scale, and the property taxes have always been high here in Oak Park, where our taxes fund our good schools,” Lipo said.
Lipo added that it is an unusual property among a select group in the area.
“There are an elite number of homes here in Oak Park that are so grand,” he said. “It’s really set up in that entertaining style. There’s a grandeur to its rooms.”
Ahmed thinks the neighborhood and enduring craftsmanship of the stately home will help it find a new family. He points out the block only has about 10 to 12 homes, each just as significant as this house.
“It’s very private and beautiful,” Ahmed said. “The surrounding houses are 10,000 square feet plus.”
While the original woodwork, crown molding and built-ins remain, the home has been updated throughout. The kitchen and bathrooms have all been updated since 2000, and Ahmed points out that the master bathroom is as big as most American bedrooms.
The third-floor ballroom has become an entertainment room with its own kitchenette, bathroom and two bedrooms. A coach house over the garage includes a full bathroom and kitchen as well, and the four-car garage and driveway leave plenty of room for parking.
The home connects with the outdoors through multiple access points to terraces and walkouts to the spacious yard.
“This house needs a special buyer,” Ahmed said. “These kind of homes don’t come around every year.”