Oak Park loves its architecture. Every now and then a house comes along that reflects a confluence of significant architecture, notable owners, original features and modern updates. The home at 454 Iowa St. is just such a place.
Recently listed for $925,000 by Shea Kiessling of Coldwell Banker Realty, the house was booked solid with showings its first day on the market, and Kiessling is not surprised. She calls the house magical and says that a lot of people may have viewed the exterior from walking architectural tours and have long wondered what was inside.
With its stucco and shingle style exterior and lush landscaping on a quiet side street, it’s no wonder the house has attracted a lot of positive attention. The English Arts and Crafts style cottage was designed by architect Lawrence Buck, who was one of a group of young architects called “The Eighteen,” friends and colleagues of Frank Lloyd Wright who had offices in Chicago’s Steinway Hall.
When Buck became too busy to supervise construction of the house, he decided to collaborate with Oak Park architect Vernon Watson, who was working for Daniel Burnham. That same year. Watson left Burnham’s office to partner with Thomas Tallmadge, and some call 454 Iowa their first collaboration.
Owner AnneMarie Hayek Evans says that when she purchased the home several years ago, she was drawn in by that architectural pedigree and the home’s charm.
“I think I was the first person to see it, and I snatched it up because it was so charming and unique,” she said. “I love the history of it. I was coming from an Arts and Crafts style home in River Forest that was about 6,000 square feet. It was very grand and gracious, but it didn’t feel warm like this house does.”
The roughly 3,500-square-foot house was built for the Reeves family in 1905, and shortly thereafter, both The Ladies Home Journal and House Beautiful featured the home and commented on its warmth.
The five-bedroom, 2.5-bathroom home was the perfect place for Evans and her teens to live. She put her stamp on most of the space while retaining all of the original details that made her fall in love with the house.
She praises the owners she purchased the home from, noting that over their 39-year tenure in the house, they took immaculate care of the home. Evans renovated the two full bathrooms on the second floor and also turned the unfinished third floor into a fifth bedroom for her teenage daughter.
In the kitchen, she refreshed the space, painting cabinets, installing a professional stove with six burners and a hood, and incorporating a breakfast bar that seats four. Throughout the house, she added more modern light fixtures.
“I retained all of the original character, including the gorgeous wood, but I had fun juxtaposing that history with modern light fixtures,” Evans said. “They pick up on the Arts and Crafts style in their shapes.”
For Evans, the house was a creative space. During the pandemic, she says she tucked herself away in the home’s inglenook and wrote her first book, which became an Amazon best seller.
She had read that the early owners of the house used to host Victorian salons, so inspired by the street name and her home state of Iowa, she began to host the Iowa Collective, her own salon. Once a month, she invited artists, activists and musicians into the home that she says “lends itself to intimate connections.”
Beyond the inglenook, Evans incorporated four window seats on the first floor. Kiessling notes that the first floor has an open floor plan but says all the nooks and crannies Evans emphasized add to the cozy ambiance.
The screened-in porch on the front of the house is shaded by a trellis of wisteria and roses, providing another intimate spot to gather. Evans says, even better, is the secret garden in the back.
“The previous owners won a Glorious Gardens award from the Tribune for the space, and it is such a special place to connect with nature with its koi pond, birds, gardens and butterflies,” Evans said.
Kiessling listed the home on the Private Listing Network while Evans organized it for sale, and the two decided to hold all showings until the listing was active rather than accept offers directly from the PLN.
Opening the house to perspective buyers was important to Evans.
“It’s such a unique home, and people often stop by to view the exterior,” Kiessling said. “This is an opportunity to let people see a part of history.”
For Evans, it will be bittersweet to say goodbye to the home she felt such a connection to. With her children leaving the nest, she is moving to Colorado.
“I would move the house to Colorado with me if that was possible,” she said.