Following the great Chicago Fire of 1871, the city adopted stringent ordinances requiring that homes be built with stone or other non-combustible materials. Not being situated on municipal land, however, the community of Lakeview quickly became a boomtown for shoddy, non-regulated construction, populated mostly by small multifamily buildings and worker cottages. By the end of the 20th century, many of those structures, which had been patched up over the years with aluminum or asphalt siding, had reached the end of their lifespan and became prime targets for teardowns.
The 5,210-square-foot row house built by GVP Development at 3311 Lakewood Avenue stands as a proud testament to the transformation that is now in motion in this desirable neighborhood near Wrigley Field. Designed in the spirit of the grand Beaux-Arts mansions that arose in America's great cities from the late 1880s to the mid-1920s, the stately home signals a newfound permanence with exterior walls of brick and Indiana limestone, copper dormers, and slate roof. And its historic inferences don't end with the façade. Inside, the floor plan revives the old school concept of a “piano nobile,” placing the main living spaces on a second floor that is slightly elevated above street level.
Allegiance to historic antecedents dictated a sunken garden and lower-level foyer for the four-story structure, although placing these spaces below grade also ensured compliance with a strict building height limit of 38 feet. “What many of our competitors have done instead is to bring an outdoor stoop up to that main floor, but then you have to carve out space for the entry hall, closets, and interior stair access, and what's left is this dinky little parlor-scale living room,” observes Jeff Goulette, a partner in the architecture firm Sullivan Goulette Wilson.
Making the plan work required a side-yard variance allowing the house to be a foot and a half wider than code, but approval was fairly easy to obtain, given the project's historic bent. “Chicago is a well-spring of modern architecture, but it's also got a traditional, conservative side,” Goulette says. “We strive to work very honestly in that language without cartooning it or distressing the proportions to put our tweak on it.”
That diligence has paid off . The architect and developer have since collaborated on a dozen similar houses in the same neighborhood.
Project: 3311 Lakewood Avenue, Chicago; Size: 5,210 square feet; Builder/Developer: GVP Development, Chicago; Architect: Sullivan Goulette Wilson, Chicago
Learn more about markets featured in this article: Chicago, IL.