In the city of Chicago there are about 1.19 million homes. That includes apartments, condos, S.R.O’s, two-flats and more.
Of those 1.19 million, 302,000 are single-family detached homes.
Of those 302,000 just two have something none of the other homes have — Their own private piece of the Lake Michigan shoreline.
The idea of looking into this came from Northwestern’s Dr. Robert Vogelzang, who was knocking a few balls around the public links at the South Shore Golf Course (7059 South South Shore Drive) when he spotted one of the two. Curious, he asked us to look into exactly how many single family homes there are left in Chicago on Lake Michigan
For this exercise, it’s important to define terms, because there are lots of “homes” on Lake Michigan. Tens of thousands of them in various high-rises alone. But what we’re looking for are the remaining single-family houses. Ones that are not attached to another home or building. Ones that have not been subdivided into multi-unit buildings.
“On” Lake Michigan is also something specific. Essentially, it means you can walk out the back door of the house and straight into Lake Michigan, without having to cross a road, or a park, or any other type of public or third-party property. You never leave your own land on the way to getting wet, and don’t have to share with anyone else.
It seems simple enough, but the internet is full of jerks, so we’ve got to lay this all out.
Here are the two we found:
2571 East 72nd Place
This is the house Dr. Vogelzang wrote to us about in South Shore. Appropriately enough, it’s zoned RS-1, and identified as “Private Lakefront” in the city’s GIS system.
Also interesting about this house is its address. While it would appear that all access is via East 71st Street, the address is actually on 72nd Place, a half-block to the south. 71st Street is treated as just an alley. However, it’s not possible to park in front of 2571 East 72nd Place because 72nd Place dead-ends before it gets to 2571. But there is a sliver of wrought iron-lined cobblestone that leads to a front gate. Thus, the unexpected legal address.
Befitting a home with such an exclusive amenity as Lake Michigan frontage, it’s quite nice. According to Cook County records, it has two stories, and was built in 1926. It’s 3,125 square feet with 3 1/2 bathrooms, a fireplace, a rec room, and a fully kitted out basement. There’s also a two-car attached garage.
Another thing this home has in abundance: outside space. It has a huge yard. Looking at maps or aerial photos, you might think that its neighbor at 2570 East 72nd Place also has direct lake access. Nope. All of that lawn between 2570 and the water is part of 2571’s yard, which clocks in at more than a third of an acre.
5965 North Sheridan Road
This is probably the better known of Chicago’s two lakefront homes simply because it has so many neighbors. It’s wedged between the 39-story Malibu Condominiums and the Emanuel Congregation’s parking lot. In the 1960’s a flurry of skyscraper construction swept away a number of neighborhood mansions, replacing them with apartment towers. Until the 1960’s, the Malibu tower’s location was a two-story mansion that served as the local headquarters for the Mormon church.
The house at 5965 is set back quite a distance from Sheridan Road, so you may not have seen it unless you once peered down its long, circular driveway.
Built in 1917, this house features two bathrooms, an unfinished basement and attic, and two fireplaces. Naturally, it has the RS-1 zoning with “Private Lakefront” note. That private lakefront is 56 feet long.
What it doesn’t have is central air conditioning, which would seem completely unnecessary since you can throw open the windows and get all the unobstructed lake breeze you can handle.
Even though at 1,516 square feet it’s half the size of the South Shore house, the Cook County Assessor values it as a hundred grand more.
So, how much does it cost to live in one of Chicago’s two lakeside houses? It’s hard to say. The various real estate web sites place values on these homes between $300,000 and $1.4 million. The estimates vary so widely that they’re pretty much worthless. But the Sheridan Road property sold for a cool million back in 2001.
Update: August 29, 2016 @ 9:00pm — An earlier version of this story listed the 72nd Place home as being in Hyde Park. It is correctly in the South Shore neighborhood. Thanks to Freddy H. for writing in about that. It’s what happens when you put in a placeholder location and then forget to go back and check the map before publishing.