Most Lake Forest and Lake Bluff residents who drive past West Park see the handsome, sturdily built country French limestone manor house at 830 N. Green Bay Road that was built at the beginning of the 1930s. Like such French homes, it hides its appearance and open space from public gaze. The house now appears to be abandoned and is the source of many questions. Here, we try to provide some answers.
The house currently is owned by the Bank of Lincolnwood after its previous owner went into foreclosure. It’s not actively on the market or for sale at this time, with no broker reported online. This probably reflects the current depressed state of the high-end real estate market relating to uncertainty by would-be buyers and lenders, so that—as in the early 1980s—sales typically are occurring for cash or historically high down payments. There is a serious dilapidation issue relating to the winter garden and greenhouse on the north side of the property. And, at times, the parkway has not been mowed, contributing to an appearance of neglect in this high-profile location. Earlier generations may recall the mansard-roofed Addams Family-type neglected mansions of the 1930s. But, today, we are seeing classic American Renaissance residences in this situation or something like it languishing on or near the market.
Indeed, as with many other local houses, the Cudahy place represents a high point of western estate house culture of the early 20th century, built by the generations that came of age after good transportation and printing technology had increased knowledge of and enthusiasm for the great houses of the Renaissance—the revival of classical learning and architecture—in England, France, and Italy especially. David Adler, as architectural historian Richard Guy Wilson judged in the 2002 David Adler, Architect: The Elements of Style (Yale University Press and the Art Institute of Chicago), was the leading traditional or classic residential architect in the nation when this was built. The Art Institute, indeed, reports having 201 detailed Adler drawings of the house, along with about 40 working and design drawings, 25 related documents, and some photographs. Thus, the house’s possibilities for restoration are excellent. The house is a livable work of art, not unlike many European great houses, in need of some remediation. When a recent New York Times Magazine story featured several similar or much smaller and simpler “castles” for sale in a presumed not dissimilar price category, those lacked such pedigreed design documentation.
The style of the house is that of a Norman French manor farm and house, typically they are built out of yellow Caen stone, quite like our Wisconsin limestone of the Niagara escarpment: The result being a true double take for those who know such places. On the south of the property is an open lawn area, in the middle the stone manor house of two and a half stories, and to the north a rectangular farm outbuildings group forming a courtyard: staff cottages, garages, and the greenhouse/winter garden. Like an agricultural manor, it is almost a small village. It’s hard to assign a value to all this in the current market, but the taxes for this prime location are relatively modest (by local standards), under $70,000 and with a value in the $4 million range for over two acres. This is in the Green Bay Road Historic District, and thus eligible for a property tax freeze if one-quarter of the purchase price is spent on rehabilitation. Details on these and other such preservation incentive programs are available through Landmarks Illinois, Chicago.
There is hardly any space left to outline the history of the property, part of the oldest farm in east Lake Forest, the Cole/Swanton/Atteridge land developed in the first two decades of the 20th century by architect Howard Van Doren Shaw. This was originally the west frontage of the 1910s William Clow Sr. property, where the Shaw house was demolished in the middle of the last century. Joseph M. Cudahy was the son of the founder of the Cudahy Meatpacking Company, and he was also Director and President of Sinclair Oil, into which a Cudahy oil pipeline concern merged in 1916. His spouse, Jean Morton Cudahy, was the daughter of Morton Salt’s Joy Morton, and she followed her father as Steward/Board President of the Morton Arboretum, also being active in the Lake Forest Garden Club. The couple had a more formal French 1910 David Adler house south of Deerpath and west of the future Route 41, still standing, and then on a large parcel. This 17,000 sq. ft. 1930s manor house on a few acres was downsizing. Similarly, by 1950, Philip D. Armour III, of Tangley Oaks north in Lake Bluff, downsized into this house. By the 1960s, it was the home of W. Clement Stone Jr., son of the Chicago insurance tycoon; and for him and his family, it was renovated in the 1960s with the entry moved from the south to the east facade. A June 12, 1988 Chicago Tribune story reports that the late younger Stone’s widow put the house on the market then for $3.2 million, two years after the Reagan income tax cuts. Before long it was the residence of the most recent owner/occupants.