This landmark home in Edgewater figures prominently in the architectural and social history of the North Edgewater area. It was built in 1906 as a home for the R.F. Conway family. The architect was W.C. Zimmerman and the builder was Lund. The architect also designed the home across the street at 6205. The interior shows some of the same design elements though the monumental scale and graciousness of this building adds to its importance in architectural history. The cost of the building in 1906 was projected at $40,000, a huge amount in comparison to homes on Kenmore and Winthrop, which were in the $4000-$6000 range, and homes west of Broadway, which were in the $2500 to $4000 range.
From the street, the design and brick work indicate a Landmark home and the wrap around porch shows the gracious dimensions and fine materials of the building. The porch of concrete, stone and brick has a tile floor and drainage outlets that are decorated with lion gargoyles in the front. The front entrance door of oak and glass opens into a large foyer with tile floor that provides an air-lock, a protection from heat loss. Once inside, you step into a hallway which holds an entrance to a small parlor with pocket doors on the right and an area to hang coats. You then pass by large oak columns leading to the reception hall. The hall is common in older homes and its size is diminished in smaller or less expensive homes. The base of the staircase is always in this hall. In the homes of the well to do, there is a fireplace in this hall. In this room you will find twin leaded glass bay windows on either side of the marble fireplace with oak mantel. The ceiling has heavy dark beams. The floors are narrow board, quarter sawn oak. The staircase entrance to the second floor is oak and is designed in three arches with oak panels on the walls. One exit from this room goes to the side entrance where there is an original powder room.
The opening to the living room is wide and decorated with mahogany woodwork which extends throughout the grand room. On either side of the doorway are columns with Ionic design capitals. The crown molding above the doorway is in the grand scale and detail of the rest of the home. Directly across from the entrance is the large and elegant fireplace with green tiles. Towards the front of the home is an area which is defined by glass enclosed book shelves along the walls. The ceiling is beamed in a decorative pattern based on lines radiating from a square. The opening of the living room into the dining room has been altered, with the evidence clearly visible. The floor has been patched with oak flooring which sets next to the gracious tiled floor of the dining room. The size of the original opening was somewhat small and may have had a pocket door. Now, with the wall removed, the beauty of the dining room is clearly apparent, even from the reception hall.
The dining room is shaped in a curve following the shape of the window bay with window seat. At each end of the curve is a china cabinet with mirrored backing to reflect the glass that is displayed. The walls are oak paneled. The ceiling is beamed in a unique sunburst design that follows the curve of the bay. In the opposite corner is a side board with a few drawers and a counter where dishes might be set before or after serving. Along the same wall is the door to the hallway to the kitchen. It has an arched design with a shell carving set into the side arches with shelving below. Off the dining room towards the rear of the home is a room which was probably a study. It also opens into the back hallway and the doorway to the back stairs.
In the kitchen there are three defined spaces: an eating area, a work area and a pantry area. The kitchen was remodeled earlier and, since no one currently lives in the house, the eating area is taken up with storage. In the pantry area, there is one original cabinet and a maple built in cabinet. This pantry opens into the back hallway and through a doorway to the main reception hall.
The staircase to the second floor has two landings and has been altered to meet fire regulations with a wall and door that enclose the stairs. The turned oak balusters are still visible before the first landing and again just past the second landing, which opens into a large area at the top of the stairs. This area has been used for storage and a doorway has been added between this area and the upstairs hall. The staircase makes another turn to reach the third floor.
The second floor holds five bedrooms, which are currently used for an early intervention child care program for neighborhood youngsters. The oak flooring is in the wide board style and has been refinished. Towards the front of the home are twin bedrooms that face the lake. Between them is a connecting closet. The bedroom to the south is connected to an original bathroom, which is shared by the next bedroom facing south. A third bedroom in the back is used for storage and is not open. Along the northern side of the home there is a small room behind the first bedroom and then a full bathroom which has been altered. Past the staircase area there is a linen closet and then a back bedroom with a door to a small balcony. There is also the entrance to the back staircase, which is narrow and winding and was a difficult climb for the maid in a long dress carrying folded linens for the bedrooms.
From the staircase area, the steps to the third floor lead to the ballroom, complete with stage. The ballroom may have been an activity room for the whole family. Early writing by Edgewater residents indicates that this type of room might have been used for activities such as playing pool or billiards. The stage could also have provided young and old, with the opportunity for fun and imagination. When you see the room, try to use your imagination, as it is now only used for storage. Off the back hallway are two rooms for servants, an original bathroom and additional storage closets.
When this home was built, women stayed home and managed operations and servants as well as children. The family would have had an automobile, but probably used it only on the weekends. Sheridan Road at the time was busy with the construction of many homes. The two mansions in Berger Park across the street were built in 1908 and 1910. Many people who were prominent in Chicago lived along Sheridan Road in Edgewater, including the Oscar Mayer family and the Gately family. However, none of their substantial homes survived through the 1960s and only a few homes remain on Sheridan Road. Besides this one and the two at Berger Park, there are about six remaining. Two of those are about to be demolished and only one has been designated as a Chicago Landmark, the home at 5940 N Sheridan.
Because the Sisters of the Sacred Heart have owned this home since the 1940s, it has been preserved. Prior to their ownership, it was once the home of the North End Women’s Club (North End referring to the North End of Edgewater). In 1965, it served as the home of Hardey Prep, a grade school run by the Sisters. Sacred Heart Academy has educated many young people in Chicago and continues to expand. Now, with plans to build an additional classroom building, this home has become an even greater treasure which will be preserved.