5808

This elegantly designed three-story building, which wraps around the northwest corner of Kenmore and Ardmore, required two separate permits when it was recorded on April 2, 1910. The land owner was Harry B. Neill who, with his two brothers, operated a successful south side plumbing contracting business. This is one of two apartment blocks Neill is known to have developed on the North Side (the other, now demolished, occupied what is now Buttercup Park at Sheridan and Ainslie). The architect for the 18-unit building was the English-born Arthur Foster who, later in his career, was known for his churches and other institutional buildings. The permit gave a construction value of $75,000 for the project as a whole. Neill apparently built this project solely for investment purposes. Shortly after it was completed in April, 1911, he sold the property to Adolf L. Schoeninger for about $90,000 in cash. Schoeninger obtained an $87,000 mortgage for five years at 5% interest.

The current owner, the firm of Rockwell Partners – reportedly only the fourth – acquired the building in 2012. They have done extensive updating of the apartments. They removed the enclosed sun rooms and returned them to balconies with new railings. They also added a walk-out area (still under construction) for a garden apartment on the Kenmore side. The building remains rental in tenancy, as it was when it was completed in 1911.

This is among the first apartment buildings to be constructed in Cochran’s First and Second Additions to Edgewater, which Cochran had previously restricted by covenant to single family home construction. However, with the completion of the elevated train service to Edgewater 1908, Cochran began to relax these restrictions. Given the prominence of the Kenmore/Ardmore intersection, anchored by Church of the Atonement, it was appropriate that higher density luxury housing be built on the three other corner sites, which remained until vacant 1910, perhaps held by Cochran in order to obtain maximum value for the land.

The exterior of the building is unique in Edgewater for the simplicity of the design paired with more traditional arts and crafts inset molded decorations. The red brick façade is in a geometrically “squared off” style with distinctive horizontal limestone and lighter brick banding interrupted by strong vertical semi “tower” extensions housing the entry door elements. These are balanced on either side by recessed open porches which neatly fit into the exterior frame of the structure. The top of the entry “towers” are surmounted by inverted “V” capstones, which are echoed in the paired inset limestone inverted “V” decorations over the doors. Inset shields and street address numbers carry out the geometric style. Extensive use is made of three window groups flanked by single windows.

The building’s 18 apartments are accessed by two entrances on Kenmore (5800-5802 and 5804-5808) and one on Ardmore (1048-1050). The three entry lobbies still have the original marble floors and walls, with double-height ceilings crossed by the same unusually wide decorative “coffered” beams used in the living room and dining room ceilings of the individual apartments. The stairwells are topped with dramatically oversized square decorative glass skylights.

The apartment on our tour, on the third floor of the northerly 5808 tier, is almost 1,500 square feet and among the largest apartments in the building. The original layout featured in the front an expansive foyer and living room (replacement for older-style double parlor) and a kitchen and formal dining room at the rear of the apartment, with the two bedrooms and two bathrooms flanking the central hallway in the middle of the apartment. The primary change made to the floor plan in the 2012 renovation was removal of the wall between the dining room and kitchen and the door to these rooms at the end of the hallway, as can be seen in the changes to the floorboards. At the same time, the dining room wall was moved to create a larger closet for the second bedroom, which is currently used as an office. The space is unified by the dark staining of the flooring throughout, which is the original oak in most of the apartment and the original maple in the kitchen. The space is also unified by the white painted woodwork, most of which is also original.

The apartment’s front door, placed in a slanting wall that signals the uniqueness of this building, leads into a spacious foyer that is open to the living room. The large decorative rustic brick fireplace flanked on either side by built-in bookcases, all now painted white, and the wide beamed coffered ceiling provide a distinctly arts and crafts feeling to the living room. The east facing wall of windows contains a bay-windowed “sun room” alcove on the one side and a recessed outdoor porch (unroofed because it is on the top floor) on the other.

The two bedrooms are larger than in most 1910 vintage apartments. The two original bathrooms have been updated with historically compatible octagonal floor tile and vanities.

The merged kitchen/dining room has an original stained glass high in the north wall, under which a sideboard or other kind of storage cabinet was usually placed. There are also two doors to the wide rear porch, both of which are original. The dining room door would have led to the screened-in part of the back porch (which would have been partitioned off and securely locked) while the kitchen door led to the open back stairs. The dining room door is flanked by two large windows, which also appear to be original. The kitchen, expanded by removal of a pantry, has dark hardwood cabinets, dark granite countertops, and stainless steel appliances. Note the very attractive pale gray patterned film used on the lower part of the kitchen windows to ensure privacy. It is made by Emma Jeffs, a UK-based designer and can be purchased from her website.