This landmark home in Edgewater figures prominently in the architectural and social history of the 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 N. Sheridan. 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. In the recent renovation the tile roof was reinstalled. 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, The floor has been patched with oak flooring which meets 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 may have been a smoking room or a breakfast room. It also opens into the back hallway and the doorway to the back stairs.

In the kitchen there were three defined spaces: an eating area, a work area and a pantry area. The kitchen was remodeled recently and now serves as a catering kitchen. Cabinets line the east wall. When the family lived here much of the food preparation occurred in the basement kitchen. There is a dumb waiter installed to send the food up to the main floor. A staff of 6-8 people were employed to service this home. The pantry opened 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 opened up to the original design. The turned oak balusters are visible for the entire staircase which leads to an upstairs hallway with a full length mirror. A doorway has been added between this area and the upstairs hall. The staircase makes another turn to reach the third floor through a unique design of arches.

The second floor holds five bedrooms, which are currently used for offices. 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 was connected to an original bathroom, which is shared by the next bedroom facing south. A third bedroom in the back as well as the other bedrooms are now used as offices. 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 would have been 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, which once held a 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. 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 had a stables/ garage across the back of the property designed to match the house. A driveway along the north side of the house had a port cochere at the side entrance. After dropping off the passengers under this porch the coachman would proceed to the stables and lead the horses into the structure so the carriage would end up on a turntable. When the carriage was to go out again the carriage would be turned around to face out and then the horses hitched to it. There were three horse stalls in the structure and eventually it was changed to a garage. The chauffer and family lived above the garage.

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 1906 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 eight remaining.

The Conway home has been part of the Sacred Heart Schools’ campus since the 1960s, when it was purchased from the North End Women’s Club (North End referring to the North End of Edgewater). Thanks to the Religious of the Sacred Heart, the Schools’ Board of Trustees and the generosity of the Richard Driehaus Foundation, the home has been preserved. In recognition of the Driehaus Foundation’s support, in 2010 the building was officially renamed the Driehaus Center at the R.F. Conway House. Since the Schools’ founding in 1876 and move to Sheridan Road in 1929, Sacred Heart Schools (the Academy of the Sacred Heart for Girls and Hardey Preparatory for Boys) has educated many young people in Chicago. The Schools currently serve 700 students in Kindergarten through 8th grade. $1.5 million in need-based scholarships is awarded annually.