One of Oak Park’s finest homes just hit the market, and the architecturally significant residence boasts plenty of square footage and one of the village’s largest lawns. An asking price of $1.8 million gets you more than 5,500 square feet of living space over four floors, a coach house apartment and a lot that measures 175-by-175 feet.
The house at 420 N. East Ave. was built in 1915 for John Meier. The Arts & Crafts style home has Prairie and Tudor influences. Constructed by local builders Joseph Guy and John McClintock, the expansive brick home was designed by architects David Postle and John Fischer.
Postle lived and worked in Elgin, and he designed many buildings in the Chicago area before moving to Los Angeles in 1921. Fischer worked as the head draftsman for Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge from 1901-09 before working as the lead designer for Postle and Fischer from 1910-20.
Some his more well-known designs are the University of Chicago Law School, the university’s gymnasium and the William Rainey Harper Memorial Library.
Chris Payne, architect and former Oak Park Historic Preservation Commission chairperson, noted on the Preservation Oak Park Facebook page that Postle and Fischer designed two significant homes in Oak Park’s estate section.
“In 1915, John Meier hired the firm to design his home at 420 East, and then in 1916, James Dick hired the firm to design his home at 522 Linden,” Payne wrote. “Both homes have a broad substantial appearance and like the firm’s other works, are Arts & Crafts inspired. The Meier home has Prairie influences, while the Dick home has some classical motifs.”
He also shared a bit of Oak Park architectural trivia.
“Postle & Fischer almost had their first Oak Park commission with a new hotel that would have stood at the corner of Marion and Pleasant, at the site of the current Carleton Hotel,” Payne wrote. “It was being developed by Plaza Hotel owner Barbara Schwalbe in 1914 but she never proceeded with the plans.”
John Meier was born in Iowa in 1869, and his family moved to Chicago when he was 10. His father was a Baptist minister. Meier married Cora Kissinger in 1903, and the two lived at 725 S. Kenilworth Ave. in Oak Park from 1908 until 1915 when they built a new home on East Avenue.
John worked for Sears, Roebuck & Co. for 35 years, and was a charter member of the Oak Park Country Club, the Chicago Athletic Club and the Art Institute of Chicago. Cora was active in the Infant Welfare Society and Nineteenth Century Club. Both were early members of First Baptist Church of Oak Park, which displays elaborate stained-glass known as the Meier Memorial Windows.
The couple never had children. John died on Christmas Eve 1941, and Cora lived in the house until her death in 1957.
When the home was featured on Wright Plus, researchers spent a great deal of time trying to pin down the original architects. They also created a construction timeline for the home. It was built in 1915 at a cost of $16,000.
Guy & McClintock built the garage in 1917 for $1,000 and in 1929, they added a sleeping porch for $2,000. In 1930, they expanded the garage and added the living quarters above the garage for the cost of $5,700.
The East Avenue home last sold in 1989, and realtor Greer Haseman of @properties – Christie’s International Real Estate is co-listing the home with her partner and son Chris Curran.
Haseman notes that the sellers have taken meticulous care of the home, working with a local roofer to maintain the original clay roof, doubling the size of the kitchen in a complete remodel and digging out the basement and adding heated floors to the media room, billiards room, bathroom and wine room on the lower level.
Haseman points out that beyond the beautiful original woodwork, fireplace and stained-glass windows, the home has much to offer. The second floor includes a multi-room primary suite as well as three additional bedrooms, each with an en suite bathroom.
The finished third floor offers a bonus room and a fifth bedroom. There are two home offices in the main house, which she said is a boon in a work-from-home society.
The coach house atop the three-car garage offers a full bedroom, bathroom, living room and kitchen. It could be used as a separate office space, or as a guest or au pair suite. Haseman points out that Oak Park has recently legalized the rentals of accessory dwelling units.
“It would probably cost at least $600,000 to recreate the coach house alone,” Haseman said.
She emphasizes that the home is well-constructed and has large, gracious rooms. “Every single room in the entire house has a great view,” she says, pointing to the expansive lawn with mature trees.
Haseman says you don’t need a degree in architecture to see how special the home is and notes that the lot also speaks for itself.
“This is certainly one of the premier lots not just in the Oak Park and River Forest market but in the western suburbs,” Haseman said. “It really feels like you’re in the country, but it’s just 20 minutes to the city.”