Edgeville Buzz

It’s Open House For 3 Of Chicago’s Last Lakefront Mansions In Edgewater


Photo: Erik Alliv Rogers

It’s truly a blessing that some lakefront mansions have survived Chicago’s urban growth. Making it even more special is that a few of these houses are located right here in Edgewater.

On October 15-16, 2016, Open House Chicago will give participants inside access to three of these rare gems. Colvin House, Conway House and Gunder House will all be showcased during the event. The unique event is presented by the Chicago Architecture Foundation and is a free for all.

Three other Edgewater building will also be on display, St. Ita Roman Catholic Church, the Edgewater Beach Apartments and Firehouse Chicago. In all, more than 200 buildings in 20 neighborhoods across Chicago will open their doors to the public during the Open House weekend.

For more info on the event, Click here.

The Edgewater Open Houses are:

1. Berger Park North Mansion (Gunder House) 6219 N. Sheridan Rd.

HOURS: Sat, Oct 15: 9am – 5pm, Sun, Oct 16: 9am – 5pm

ARCHITECT: Myron H. Church, 1910

DESCRIPTION: The North Mansion in Berger Park was built for pharmaceutical company executive Samuel Gunder, who lived in the house from 1910 to 1919. The yellow brick American Foursquare home, with its restrained ornamentation, was used as a residence for many years by the Viatorian religious order. They sold the property to the Chicago Park District in 1981 for half as much money as private developers would have paid—hoping to preserve the mansions and open space for the community rather than see them redeveloped. The Park District originally intended to remove the North Mansion, but the Edgewater Community Council raised funds to rehab it for use as a cultural center.

BEHIND THE SCENES: Explore one of Chicago’s last remaining lakefront mansions.

2. Sacred Heart Schools, Driehaus Center (Conway House) 6200 N. Sheridan Rd.

HOURS: Sat, Oct 15: 10am – 4pm, Sun, Oct 16: 10am – 4pm

ARCHITECT: William Carbys Zimmerman, 1906

DESCRIPTION: The Richard F. Conway House was completed in 1906 for the owner of the paving company that constructed Lake Shore Drive. The enormous Tudor-Revival home is the work of architect William Carbys Zimmerman. He designed many nearby mansions on this posh stretch of Sheridan Road. In 1959, Sacred Heart Schools purchased the house, sparing it the fate that befell most of its neighbors. A $4-million restoration, completed in 2010, brought the house back to its original splendor. Highlights include beautiful oak and mahogany woodwork, ceiling beams in geometric patterns and 19 restored leaded-glass windows. The house now provides offices and event space for Sacred Heart Schools.

BEHIND THE SCENES: Take in the opulence of this restored and rarely-open mansion—one of the last survivors of Sheridan Road’s days as a millionaire’s row.

3. Colvin House 5940 N. Sheridan Rd.

HOURS: Sat, Oct 15: 9am – 5pm, Sun, Oct 16: 9am – 5pm

ARCHITECT: George Maher, 1909

DESCRIPTION: Passersby on Sheridan Road have long wondered about this yellow brick, Prairie Style-inflected American Foursquare mansion. After more than a century as a private residence, Colvin House is being transformed into 6,000 square feet of co-working and event space. While the exterior of the house is quite restrained, the interior features over-the-top plaster ornamentation that was most likely added in the 1920s—it resembles the décor found in the lavish movie palaces of the day. Colvin House was designated a Chicago Landmark in 1994.

BEHIND THE SCENES: Explore the outrageous interior of this stately mansion on Sheridan Road—open to the public for the very first time in 2016.

4. Edgewater Beach Apartments 5555 N. Sheridan Rd.

HOURS: Sat, Oct 15: 9am – 5pm, Sun, Oct 16: Closed

ARCHITECT: Marshall & Fox, 1928

DESCRIPTION: Edgewater Beach Apartments are the only remaining part of the Edgewater Beach Hotel complex, started by Marshall and Fox in 1918. This massive, Spanish-style “Pink Palace” was connected to the hotel by a three-block beach promenade for decades. The hotel was demolished in the late 1960s—a decade after the extension of Lake Shore Drive cut the hotel off from the beach. The building became a co-op in 1949, and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1994. It has a unique Maltese-Cross shape to give each room an abundance of natural light and to maximize views of Lake Michigan. An indoor pool terrace overlooks the original Beaux-Arts pool. Edgewater Beach Apartments was named one of the 10 most beautiful buildings in Chicago by TimeOut Chicago.

BEHIND THE SCENES: See the elegant two-story lobby, indoor terrace, Beaux-Arts pool, award-winning gardens and more.

5. St. Ita Roman Catholic Church 5500 N. Broadway

HOURS: Sat, Oct 15: 9:30am – 4pm, Sun, Oct 16: Closed

ARCHITECT: Henry J. Schlacks, 1927

DESCRIPTION: St. Ita Parish was founded in Edgewater in 1900. The current French-Gothic church, which opened in 1927, was the capstone of Henry Schlacks’s distinguished career as an ecclesiastical architect. The open tower appears airy and delicate, yet it contains 1,800 tons of Bedford limestone and rises to 120 feet in height. Elaborate Gothic detailing marks the altar, but the medallion windows—containing more than 200,000 pieces of stained glass—are the real highlight of the interior.

BEHIND THE SCENES: Visit Henry Schlack’s masterpiece, the grandest church in Edgewater.

6. Firehouse Chicago

ADDRESS: 1545 W. Rosemont Ave.

HOURS: Sat, Oct 15: Closed, Sun, Oct 16: 9am – 5pm

DESCRIPTION: The original home of Engine Company 70 remained active until 2008. The building has since been meticulously restored. Vintage white subway tile walls have been repaired on the ground floor and the front engine door has been reconstructed from original architectural drawings. One of the original brass fire poles is still intact. The back room, which housed a small horse stable, has been transformed into a modern kitchen. The building’s ground floor often hosts weddings and events while the upper floor is home to a film production company.

BEHIND THE SCENES: Take in this lovingly-restored former firehouse with vintage spiral staircase and firepole.

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