Office Phone: 312-893-3551
Office Fax: 312-944-8358
FRANCIS J. DEWES HOUSE: 503 WRIGHTWOOD AVENUE
CHICAGO - LINCOLN PARK, ILLINOIS
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND & RESTORATION
The Francis J. Dewes house is unlike any other home in Chicago. It is a confection of German Baroque and French architecture constructed of carved Bedford limestone with rococo and gothic details. Brewing baron Francis Dewes commissioned German-born architects Adolph Cudell and Arthur Hercz to design the mansion in 1894. He wanted his home to reflect his taste in old world art and culture. The mansion’s intricate ornamentation and magnificent materials make it a home long-admired for its artistry inside and out.
With the Botti Studio of Architectural Arts, the current owners of the Dewes House embarked on a six-year restoration and renovation project designed to usher this architectural treasure into the twenty-first century. Wood carvings were cleaned and restored, original windows were refurbished and refitted, painted panels and ceilings were restored, mosaic tile floors were cleaned and repaired, and original stained-glass and art-glass windows were cleaned, releaded, and reinstalled to breath-taking effect. The kitchen and butler’s pantry were transformed into a cook’s delight, bathrooms were beautifully redone, the third floor ballroom became a spectacular master suite, and the lower level was enhanced with all the must-haves of today’s luxury homes: entertainment and play spaces, media room, wine cellar, and additional guest quarters.
The result is an unqualified success: a home that has earned its proud place on the National Register of Historic Places and as a Chicago Landmark but a home that now stands as an extremely appealing modern residence ready to be enjoyed by its next owners.
Up a short flight of stone steps and beneath a front porch supported by two marvelous carytids on pedestals, you reach the handsome wooden and iron front door. There is a small entry vestibule, then a larger foyer, and finally a grand stair hall which is the only example in Chicago of German Jugendstil—a restrained version of Art Nouveau. As you pass into the main body of the house, the fine mosaic floor shows the way towards an incredible marble fountain arrayed in a classical niche. Are we in ancient Rome or Lincoln Park?
The Great Rooms on the first floor were designed in a variety of different styles. High ceilings and circular interconnections allow for an open, easy flow from room to room.
The Drawing Room or Parlor represents the Rococo—the highest and last phase of the Baroque. Note the characteristic sea-shell and ear-shaped motifs. Classic Rococo colors—sold, white, and pastels—are echoed in the new silk wall coverings and gorgeous draperies. Enjoy the beautifully restored Fragonard-inspired transom emblems and the central ceiling painting. A gas fireplace with marble surround anchors the room, while herringbone-laid wood flooring adds handsome elegance. The light sconces are custom-made of Murano glass. A beautiful environment for family time as well as larger gatherings.
The Music Room can be closed off to the parlor and dining rooms by massive mahogany pocket doors. It might be best described as early Baroque with its classic carved-oak paneling with hints of gold trim and interior and ceiling paintings. The fireplace is a blood-red veined marble. The eagles in the ceiling’s corners are American rather than Hapsburg—indicating that the room is more American than German in its intentions. The overall effect is of a gracious place to gather before or after dinner for a fireside conversation or for some entertainment.
The classically-inspired Dining Room features gorgeous, carved French-oak paneling on the lower two-thirds of the walls. There is a large fireplace and a built-in credenza with surrounding niches on the facing wall. A swinging door to the butler’s pantry and kitchen is artfully concealed by its carved paneling. A door to the yard is tucked into a niche in the southeast corner of the room. The coffered ceiling whose voids are filled with ornamental low relief in plaster presents scenes of hunting and feasting. The floor is a delicate mosaic composition. Two new Parisian-made chandeliers blend beautifully with the existing architecture. Enjoy a truly outstanding place for holiday gatherings and other special occasions.
While the central floating stairs are a majestic original feature of the Dewes House and their railings are of Neo-Rococo gilt iron, it is the great landing window that is their most important aspect. After a two-year restoration effort in Europe, you can now admire the gorgeous hand-painted images on the central glass of a woman holding a distaff and a length of yarn while putti fly above her holding painter’s pallets. To the left is a landscape of a castle on a mountain; to the right is a village nestled in rolling hills. What’s more, the central panel is actually a door that leads out to a west-facing iron balcony that overlooks the expansive courtyard.
The walnut-paneled and ornately carved Gothic Library is said to have been imported from an old European castle. The room with its great beamed ceiling is reminiscent of German domestic interiors in the early sixteenth century complete with appropriate corbels. The mosaic surround of the fireplace culminates on the floor in an outline of the state of Illinois with black, red, and gold bands across it—the colors of the new 1870s German flag. Call it Patriotic Gothic? The wall coverings may look like silk, but they are really gently embossed leather—a handsome finish to this superb room.
Accessed via the Stair Hall or the Dining Room, the Kitchen and Pantries usher you into a new era of modern elegance. With custom-made Clive Christian cabinetry and crystal chandeliers, La Cornue range and double ovens, multiple Sub-Zero refrigerator and freezer units, and Bosch dishwashers, the Kitchen will appeal to both the accomplished cook and the appreciative guest. A large central island with generous breakfast bar seating is topped with Iroko hardwood—a lustrous, durable wood from tropical Africa. The other countertops are of Jerusalem Gold marble; the Kitchen’s Waterworks tile backsplash is a lovely highlight.
Marvelous practical storage and artful display are thoughtfully laid out across these two rooms as well as in an original walk-in pantry. Similarly, there are several prep and work sinks placed in appropriate locations—including one with a lovely western view of the courtyard. Detailed moldings and chandelier medallions add to the warm grandeur of these rooms.
A back staircase to the lower level and second floor, powder room, and guest closet complete the first floor.
Up the grand staircase past the luminous wall of stained-glass art you arrive at the gorgeous “Upper Foyer” with its herringbone-patterned wood floor, large seating area, and walls of mirrors—grandly scaled and reminiscent of Versailles’ famous hall of mirrors.
Four family or guest bedrooms are found on the second floor as well as an expansive office with a fireplace. The largest bedroom has a sleeping alcove and a spacious sitting area with fireplace.
Two bedrooms enjoy private, updated baths, the other two share a bath. All rooms are beautifully detailed with extensive millwork, high ceilings, wood floors, several windows, and unusually ample closet space for the era of the home. The interior decoration of rich fabrics, Farrell & Ball wallpaper and paint, and state-of-the-art lighting make each room an inviting, exceptional space. A convenient second floor laundry room accommodates full-size machines and has built-in cabinetry and a sink.
From the south end of the Upper Foyer are the stairs to the lavish master suite. Many details of the original ballroom were maintained in the bedroom with its expansive sitting area, including its ornament of columns and ceiling decoration. The original skylight has been restored and graces a central foyer from which you access the outstanding his-and-her master baths, closets, and dressing areas. A feeling of private, luxurious serenity is achieved with the marvelous fabrics, tasteful finishes, and thoughtful custom built-ins. There is also a cozy office or nursery tucked next to the master bedroom and a full-size stackable laundry.
The Lower Level is slightly above grade and thus enjoys an abundance of light, a rarity, offered by this extraordinary home. Transformed by the current owners into a full level of modern living and play space, it enjoys the top finishes and thoughtful details found throughout.
The Billiard Room or Play Room has a coffered ceiling with attractive up-lighting. The Family Room is large and ready to host any number of slumber parties or ping pong tournaments. The adjacent Media Room is the place to be for Game Day or Movie Night. A generous lounge area with two wet bars—one with counter seating— make entertaining or daily living fun and convenient. A large guest or live-in bedroom suite with private full bath is at the opposite end of this level. Another full bath and powder room are well-located and beautifully finished with top stone choices and fixtures. There is also “real” storage, another laundry facility, and a state-of-the-art mechanical room. The lower level also enjoys an expansive built-out wine cellar.
A four-car garage, yard, and 112 foot by 29 foot brick and concrete courtyard compliment all of the other wonderful features of this one-of-a-kind residence. A top-flight sound system and other smart-home technologies have been installed in the renovated areas of the home—the Kitchen, Master Suite, and the Lower Level.
Thanks to its outstanding restoration and renovation, the Francis J. Dewes House looks forward to an exciting future on its sunny corner of Wrightwood Avenue and Hampden Court. It embraces Chicago’s storied architectural past while offering a lifestyle that makes the most of today’s luxury amenities and decorative finishes.