A Gunderson-built home at 1007 Home Ave. in Oak Park hit the market this week. Like a lot of Oak Park homes, it boasts charming original details and a connection to an historic person.
Unlike most Oak Park homes that claim a famous connection, this house claims a connection to a man who became a billionaire marketing hamburgers and fries to the masses. The house was the boyhood home of Ray Kroc, the man who developed the modest California hamburger franchise business McDonald’s into an international fast food empire.
Fame was a long way off when Ray was born in 1902. His father, Louis, worked for Western Union and his mother, Rose, gave piano lessons to help make ends meet when the couple purchased the home in 1907 from S.T. Gunderson, the developer who built the house in 1905.
When Amy and Matt Bauer bought the home in 2016, they purchased it before it officially hit the market.
They heard from the seller’s agent that the home had belonged to the Kroc family, but that was about all they knew.
“It was a cool fact, but it was really just the house that drew us in,” Matt Bauer said.
He cites the way the sunlight filled the house, the original oak woodwork and the stained glass as the big draws.
“The home has a lot of original detail,” said Amy Bauer. “The door hardware and the wood were things we really loved. It has that classic Oak Park feel, but with a more modern floor plan with the open floor plan between the kitchen and family room.”
The couple was moving to the suburbs from a South Loop loft, and loved the new family room addition that the previous owners put on the home since it provided a similar open floor plan.
Matt notes that space helped them envision themselves raising a family in the home, a key point since Amy was expecting their first child at the time.
Monica Dalton of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices is listing the house for the Bauers for $625,000 and says that the history of the home is a bonus when selling a house in Oak Park. Many potential buyers may feel as Dalton does.
“I’m a history buff,” Dalton said. “The stories of Oak Park — who lived where, the notable owners — I’m fascinated by that.”
While the history is a hook, she says that she expects the attributes of the house will be what draws in the new owners.
“Ultimately, buyers will find the history interesting, but the house itself is really a great house,” Dalton said, adding that previous owners did a lot of great renovations and that the Bauers updated the home nicely as well.
“It’s a good house. It’s going to sell quickly.”
For the Bauers, the open kitchen has been a great place to cook, and they added a few updates to make the house their own. In the family room, they redid the fireplace by adding stacked stone with a television above the mantle.
In addition to other utilitarian updates, they took on a big project pre-COVID that they call a lifesaver. In the fourth bedroom, the smallest in the house, they had a custom Murphy bed built into the space. When folded up, it has a desk space next to a built-in bookcase. When folded down, it becomes a queen-sized bed, making the room perfect for guests.
Matt says they purposefully chose to use quarter-sawn oak for the piece to help it blend into the home’s original wood.
“It’s the most used space in the house now,” he said.
On top of making the house their own, the couple also delved into the history of the home,” Amy Bauer said. “The previous owners had invited Ray Kroc’s niece, Lois, into the home, and they left behind copies of family letters and photos that she provided.
“She shared pictures of the family in the home, on the porch and in the backyard in the early 1900s. It was cool to see this history of people enjoying the house.”
The previous owners also left behind copies of letters that Louis Kroc wrote to Rose before the two were married, and Matt says these provide a little peak into the lives and relationships of the couple whose son would become famous.
When they sell the house, Amy says they will leave behind the memorabilia of the Kroc family for the next owners.
“It seems like it’s part of the house and should stay with it,” she said.