Historic Lincoln Park row house on the market

Tray Ling

Represented by Connie Grunwaldt of @properties, the row house retains many of its original features from 1889, including tile surrounds on its five fireplaces, ample wood details on the staircase, walls and fireplaces, a pocket door, and an operable skylight for letting heat rise up through the house to cool […]

Represented by Connie Grunwaldt of @properties, the row house retains many of its original features from 1889, including tile surrounds on its five fireplaces, ample wood details on the staircase, walls and fireplaces, a pocket door, and an operable skylight for letting heat rise up through the house to cool the interior.

Chalmers is a double lane, with a common lawn space running down the middle that is known as the green. That and the fact that it’s accessed only through a gate, which sharply reduces traffic, makes it “a coveted location,” Grunwaldt said.

Sales are infrequent in the McCormick row houses. In the past five years, five of them have sold, for prices between $1.43 million and $1.7 million, according to Midwest Real Estate Data.

Russell, a retired engineer, said he bought the home for about $68,000 in 1975, before he’d ever been inside it. “There was a lottery to sell 30 of the rowhouses,” he said, “and our number was 28.” He and his then-wife had to choose fast, and they picked this one.

The McCormick Seminary, which was founded in 1829 in Indiana, was at Halsted and Fullerton from 1859 and used the row houses as residences for students and faculty and for rental income. In the mid-1970s, planning a move to Hyde Park, where it still is today, the seminary’s officials did not want the old rowhouses replaced by a high-rise, Russell said, so they sold the entire rowhouse cluster to an investor group that in turn sold the units to individual buyers.

Other than painting over most of the wood trim, the seminary had done little to update the row house, Russell said. He stripped all the paint, returning the wood to its 1889 look, and updated the kitchen and bathrooms.

A buyer will likely do some updating. While the home has been maintained well and is in move-in condition, it does not have air conditioning or an en suite bathroom for the primary bedroom, Grunwaldt said.

Having lived in the rowhouse cluster for decades, Russell has been inside many of them and said he believes his is among those with the most original features intact. He said that may be because, as an internal unit with no side windows, it was assigned to lower-level faculty. 

Some have been demolished over the years, but the seminary originally built 64 rental units, designed by A.M.F. Colton & Son with, according to a history of the district, extensive input from Nancy “Nettie” McCormick. She was the wife of Cyrus McCormick, whose McCormick Harvesting Machine Company, later International Harvester, made them one of Chicago’s wealthiest families in the late 1800s. The idea for the central green and much of the look of the homes came from her, according to the history.

“To each building in addition to money she had given uncounted hours in consultation with architects, builders, seminary committees” and others, the historical article quotes a biographer writing of Nettie McCormick. “Those who know her ways have said, with pardonable exaggeration, that she knew every stick and brick in any building that she gave.”

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