The home was built in 1910 in Kransz’s 2nd addition to Edgewater. It is a classic American Foursquare with a stucco exterior. The architect was Edward Benson, who designed many of the homes on this block between 1909 and 1912. He was hired by the Henry P. Kransz Company to design the homes which were then built by the company. The current owners have lived in the home for 15 years.
The same family lived at 1523 W. Norwood Avenue for four generations. Neighbors still referred to it as the “Johnson house” for decades after the Johnsons moved out. Bob Johnson is a former Chicago police officer. Like his great-grandparents, grandparents and parents, Bob Johnson grew up in the home and raised his children there. Bob Johnson’s grandmother, Louise Neubauer, was probably the first person born in the home. Her parents owned a cigar store in the Loop.
From the front, the home looks charming with the original front porch columns and railing. Photos of Louise Neubauer as a baby on the front porch show that the front porch was originally open, then partially enclosed by her parents. Later on, the family finished the porch with the glass, latching windows you see today. The enclosure did not cover the original railings and the windows above it open for fresh air. The roof is a hip and at the third floor level there is a small dormer. Despite being one of many homes by the same architect it is difficult to find an exact match on the block. One place to look is at the dormers.
The front door is oak with a large center glass. The entrance hall also includes the staircase. The layout of the rooms on the main level is typical of the American Foursquare style, with the foyer and living room in the front and the dining room and kitchen in the back of the home. As you enter the large foyer, note the built-in mirror on the left. Look up and you’ll see a hanging light fixture original to the home. It’s an Arts and Crafts green slag glass and copper lamp. This may have been a feature that the first owners chose for this home. The woodwork and wood windows are original oak. The woodwork was never painted as was popular in the past. The hardwood floors are in excellent condition. The dining room chandelier was made by art deco lamp maker Beardslee of Chicago in the 1920s. Bob Johnson, descendant of the home’s original owners, found the chandelier in the attic. Perhaps it was considered too old fashioned at some point and put away.
The dining room’s oak mirrored buffet is original to the house. This buffet was originally built into the west wall of the dining room. The current owners preserved it and moved it to the east wall when the kitchen was remodeled in 2007.
The kitchen was designed to celebrate the home’s history. The locking hardware on the new kitchen cabinets echoes the original hardware on the buffet. To complement the home’s extensive original woodwork, the owners chose teak counter-tops instead of granite. The oak kitchen flooring was chosen to match the home’s existing flooring. The owners embrace the home’s history with vintage-style white cabinetry, subway tiles and a new retro-style refrigerator. From the back you can see an antique paver walkway installed by the current owners.
As you walk upstairs, note the beautiful oak banister and stairs. Typical for the times, the floors, windows and trim on the second level are all maple. The home originally had four bedrooms but, at some point, the two front bedrooms were combined into a master suite. The built-in medicine cabinet in the upstairs bathroom is original. The claw foot tub may also be original.
Even the bathroom’s peeling paint has an interesting history. When the current owners moved in, their painter became exasperated when the paint he applied to the bathroom peeled off immediately. The bathroom was repainted but has been peeling ever since. The owners did some research and eventually discovered the bathroom is coated with calcimine. A mixture of chalk and glue, Calcimine was popular in the 19th and early third of the 20th centuries. It was an inexpensive way to coat walls that were stained by soot. More important, it allowed builders to “finish” their projects immediately. Otherwise, they would have to wait 30-60 days for plaster to “season” and accept oil-based paint. Calcimine is too soft and light to stand up to today’s stronger paints. Over time, any modern paint over a calcimine base will eventually fail and it will deteriorate faster in moist areas. The test for calcimine is to rub a damp finger (spit will do fine) over a peeled area. If your finger looks like you rubbed a dirty chalkboard, you have calcimine.
The attic is accessed by a set of stairs from the upstairs hallway.