This handsome six-unit apartment house (now eight apartments) was built in 1924 by Henry F. Wolter. Wolter was a busy building contractor and real estate investor who specialized in small commercial structures and walk-up flat-style apartments. No permit has yet been found for 6138-42, but it is most likely that the architect was Benedict J. Bruns with whom Wolter frequently collaborated in the 1918-1925 period. Bruns is most famous for his classic Chicago-style bungalows but he also designed a number of flats. Wolter lived on the 6138 side with his wife and his only child. Their daughter was married at the Sovereign Hotel shortly after they moved into their new home. Previously, they had lived as renters at 1406 Norwood and as owners at 1432 Norwood, both single family houses. In 1930 the tenants occupying the rental units at 6138-42 were, like the Wolters, affluent couples in their post-child rearing years or young adults not yet parents.

The beautiful wrought iron gate opens to the center walkway and entrance of this impressive building. The door is flanked by large bays that extend to the three floors of the building which is situated on a wide lot. The architecture of the façade has many notable details including a limestone base, decorative quoins on the facets of the bays and decorative lintels above the windows. The center door is framed by side light windows. At the top above the stone cornice is a decorative parapet of both brick and limestone. On the side is a driveway and port cochere for protected entrance to the lobby and the garden apartment. This is where you will enter, through the driveway to see the garden apartment.

This unit was not part of the original plans, but is a very special residence not at all typical of a Chicago “garden” apartment. This apartment is a treasure that the owner found about 10 years ago, not far from Sacred Heart School which the owner had attended. Years ago other relatives had lived in Edgewater and so it was a familiar place. In a neighborhood of dense multi-unit buildings, imagine having your own front driveway to your own portico with covered parking, walking a few steps right into your apartment; or being able to look out onto a private 500 square foot brick patio and garden along the south wall of the apartment.

This unit was created by combining a small studio apartment, the portico entrance thruway to the lobby, and the “trunk room”, what we would call the storage. Although it runs the length of the building, it is not as wide as the upstairs apartments. The entrance opens into the spacious living room and sun porch which is the base of the front bays. From the living room there is access to the marble lobby that has a decorative fireplace and mosaic floors, brass sconces on either side with extensions that go all the way down to the floor. The main staircase has original woodwork and a skylight not untypical of such upscale homes on Kenmore. In the apartment a hallway leads to two bedrooms and bathrooms. The dining room and kitchen area are at the rear. The dining area doubles as the artist’s studio. Over a decade ago the apartment had been completely rehabbed yet there remain brick walls and the original decorative iron gas heater for what was probably the “help’s” studio apartment or workspace.

The private garden includes one raised bed and numerous containers, brimming with shade loving ivies, ferns, and begonias. While resting in one of the many seats she has for her guests, you will notice the outlines of the upper floor apartments that extend over the portico spaces with added rooms. You will also notice the concrete planter holders on the upper floors that extend out from below the window lintels. This unit is a blend of the benefits of urban living and the beauty of a lovely garden. It is a very special urban oasis.