WIN: Keith Mansion to be Renovated as a Home Despite Commercial Zoning

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“A 19th century mansion on Prairie Avenue whose zoning allows commercial use has been sold to users who plan to keep it as a single-family home. The house, a mansard-roofed remnant of Prairie Avenue’s heyday as a fashionable mansion district, sold Jan. 22 for $2.3 million.

“Paul Gorney, the eXp Realty agent who represented the buyers, said they plan to renovate the eight-bedroom, 10,600-square-footer, which had been in one family’s hands since 1978. While the house and its coach house were not threatened with demolition, their zoning classification would have allowed a buyer to put them into commercial use.

“‘It’s an incredible place,’ Gorney said. ‘As a Chicagoan, you love to see a house like that still standing and being used as a house.’

“Because of ‘the vast size of the house,’ said Hadley Rue, the Dream Town agent who represented the property, it would have been possible to divide the mansion for multiple uses—whether for commercial use or as condos or apartments.

“Rue represented the 27-room home for two sisters, Tracy and Marcy Baim, whose late mother, Joy Darrow, and her husband, Steve Pratt, bought it in 1978. Marcy Baim operated a gallery on the first floor and rented out the coach house.

“Built in 1870 or 1871, the mansion was originally the home of Elbridge Keith, a banker and civic leader, and Harriet Hall Keith, according to an article on the Glessner House blog. The Keith house is one of only seven that remain from the Gilded Age days when Pullmans, Fields and Armours built some of the neighborhood’s 50 or more grand mansions, according to the Encyclopedia of Chicago.

“The Keith house spent a few decades in the 20th century as publishing companies’ offices but returned to partial residential use in 1974 when Wilbert and Marilyn Hasbrouck moved in. Wilbert Hasbrouck was the Chicago architect who in the mid-1960s spearheaded efforts to prevent demolition of the now-treasured Glessner House half a block north.

“The Hasbroucks operated an architecture bookstore on the Keith House’s first floor. At the time, the house was surrounded by parking lots and storage buildings, as Prairie Avenue and its environs had become an industrial district.

“In 1978 the Hasbroucks sold the house to Darrow and Pratt, without putting it on the market and only after Darrow and Pratt vowed to preserve and restore it, Tracy Baim said in 2019. Darrow and Pratt paid less than $200,000 for the house, but in the ensuing decades the family spent at least $2 million on restoration and preservation, according to Baim.

“‘This house matters in so many ways,’ Tracy Baim said then.” (Rodkin, Crain’s, 1/25/21)

Read the full story at Crain’s Chicago Business

Prairie Avenue mansion sells for record price; The home, a remnant of the South Loop street’s heyday as a fashionable mansion district, went for $2.3 million, the highest for a house in the neighborhood, Dennis Rodkin, Crain’s Chicago Business, 1/25/21

Elbridge Keith House, A history from Glessner House, 11/3/14

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