Some homes in Oak Park wear their architectural pedigree on their sleeves. Whether through a plaque on the front designating them historic landmarks or a distinctive architectural flourish, they announce to the world that, through their connection with a famous architect or an individual who made a mark on Oak Park, they are a part of local history.
Other homes from the same era might be a little more subtle. Yes, they are old and most likely designed by someone with architectural skills, but their pasts aren’t as well documented.
While they might not garner a stop on famous home tours, these houses are the bread and butter of Oak Park — the kind of charming historic homes that draw people to live here.
The house at 215 N. Elmwood Ave. is one of those. Records kept by the Historical Society of Oak Park and River Forest indicate the home was built sometime between 1895 and 1908, and has names but few details on the first owners.
A real estate ad from the 1970s says the house could be an E. E. Roberts design, but there is no corroboration for this claim.
In short, the stately home might have an undistinguished pedigree, but it retains many original details that make it an Oak Park classic. Recently, the owners updated the home for their family’s needs and while they retained the original charm, they created a versatile space for a modern family.
In 2014, Beyond Properties Owner and Managing Broker Erica Cuneen sold the home to the current owners. It was well-maintained, but she says of what was then a big blue house, “It had all of these nice vintage features, but it needed a ton of work.”
She says that her clients took the house down to the studs, while taking care to salvage original details like the dining room’s woodwork and leaded glass windows. At the rear of the house, they created an addition to allow space for a mudroom and stairs to the basement.
A brand-new gourmet kitchen includes an eight-burner Blue Star range and a walnut island with leathered granite counters. A new butler’s pantry is a nod to what might have existed in the original home, and a walk-in pantry provides extra storage.
The second floor originally had five bedrooms with one shared bathroom. The owners reconfigured the space to create a huge primary suite, converting one bedroom to a closet and another to the en suite bathroom.
The third floor has three more bedrooms and a full bath, bringing the total number of bedrooms in the main house to six, with three full bathrooms and two half bathrooms.
As part of their work, the owners also built a new three-car garage topped with a two-bedroom, one bathroom coach house.
“The coach house is amazing,” Cuneen said.
The entire space is ADA accessible and includes an elevator, making it versatile as an in-law suite or a great work-from-home space. Cuneen says the coach house is like a standalone house, with its own heating/cooling systems, kitchen and patio.
Listed for sale
The owners are moving on and have listed the home for sale with Cuneen for $1.7 million.
“Everything is new: the bathrooms, the kitchen, the roof, the gutters, the mechanicals,” Cuneen said. “There is nothing to do but move in.
“They even put in a geothermal heating system, so the cost to heat and cool the house is really low for such a big house.”
The location is a big selling point as well, within walking distance to the farmers market, schools and the el, providing a walkability that Cuneen says buyers are looking for.
While the attributes are appealing, Cuneen says it makes sense to use all of the available technology to showcase the house to buyers who may begin their search for a new home from their computers. She created a video of a drone tour of the property to augment the professional listing photos of the home.
At the end of the day, Cuneen says the home might sell to a buyer from the city or to someone local looking for more room for a growing family. She has no doubt they will fall in love with the space.
“It’s definitely such a unique property in that everything has been done,” Cuneen said. “You have nothing to do. And, it’s stunning.”