The Last House on the Block
By: Kathy Gemperle
The home at 6316 N. Magnolia holds a special place in its neighborhood called North Edgewater. It’s the last house on the block on the west side of the street. It’s an elegant place inside, but for years did not look like much because the wrap around porch was enclosed and the original wooden pillars replaced with brick. It was covered with wide siding of the type sold in the 1970s. But still it was a special place because it spoke of community history.
The story of this home was somewhat mysterious when, in 1997, the Edgewater Historical Society persuaded the owners to show it in our Home Tour. Those owners, the Schwartzes, had purchased the home in 1987 when it was in sad shape and had tried to begin the restoration. Here’s an excerpt of the description from our Home Tour booklet.
In the front hall, the craftsmanship of the builder is apparent. The wood paneled wainscoting, the twin closet doors and the floor are all quarter sawn oak… The dominant feature of the hallway is the spindled staircase and elegant newel post. Two steps up is a cozy nook with a window bench. The area receives light through a beautiful beveled glass window. At the landing of this staircase is a Palladian window with glass designs that include a shell, a wreath and fleur de leis.
As you enter the living room to the right, you become aware of the beautiful coved ceiling with picture molding and more beautiful woodwork with crown moldings above the doorways… Behind the parlor is a second parlor. The windows in this room are quite large with beautiful woodwork and a bench at the base. The focus of this room is the fireplace with original mantel and replacement tiles. The decorative columns on this piece are Ionic at the top.
The spectacular dining room has a geometric design beam pattern, a diamond inside a square… The windows are quite tall on either side of the hutch.
Because the Schwartzes were so generous is showing their home to the community, its craftsmanship became more well known. To our surprise more recently, Florence Hurter contacted us about the house because her husband’s father and his brother, Louis P. Hurter, lived there with their parents from 1890-1923. Here’s some of the information she forwarded to us.
Louis P. Hurter, Sr. owned a millwork business in Chicago from 1890-1910. He hired Ernst Mayo, an architect, in 1895 to design a family home at this site. The contractor was H.H. Roberts. The total cost was $2,675. Louis P. Hurter’s daughter, Louann Hurter VanZelt, looked into her archives and, between them, the Van Zelts and Hurters donated to the Ryerson and Burnham Library of the Art Institute of Chicago all the information they had about this wonderful home.
Included in this material are the general specifications for the home, which included this Statement: “The owner to furnish staircases and fix and fit same. The millwork will be supplied by owner.” Of further interest were specifications for a wooden sidewalk from the front of the property with a widening at the front entrance and a continuation to the kitchen entrance at the rear. This wooden sidewalk was to be four feet wide.
Additional information on the home included alterations to the original plan, such as moving the windows in the parlor at a cost of $9.00, with the responsibility being that of the Architect, Mayo. Other changes included creating a cold air box in wood at a cost of $4.00 for the owner. The more recent history of the home includes its sale in 1999 for an asking price of $549,000. The current owners recently sought approval to tear the home down and replace it with a multi-unit building. The property had been down-zoned to R3 through the efforts of the community group in order to preserve it for future generations. Neighbors in the area opposed the zoning change, which was necessary for the construction of a multi-unit building. Now, the home is on the market for $899.000. Perhaps the new owners will be interested in this history from the archives at the Art Institute of Chicago.