Frank Lloyd Wright-designed school-turned-mansion returns to market

The home didn’t sell earlier this year, so its owners continued renovations and cut the price, Compass listing agent Mike McCurry said

Chicago /
Jul.July 24, 2019 09:10 AM
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Avery Coonley Playhouse is returning to the market (Credit: Wikipedia)

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Avery Coonley Playhouse is returning to the market (Credit: Wikipedia)

A Frank Lloyd Wright-designed schoolhouse-turned-mansion is returning to the market, this time with a price cut and some newly finished renovations.

The Avery Coonley Playhouse, 350 Fairbank Road in Riverside, was re-listed Wednesday, listing agent Mike McCurry of Compass said.

The home previously was on the market from April 2018 to February, the first time it was for sale since the 1970s, said McCurry, who previously had the listing when he was with Coldwell Banker. But like many other older suburban homes, it had a hard time moving in today’s housing market.

“The feedback was it’s such a special house, but there were areas that were just not considered’ in previous renovations, McCurry said.

After the home failed to find a buyer, homeowners Susan Shipper-Smith and Ted Smith decided to pull the listing and continue renovating it, including upgrading the bedrooms, McCurry said.

“Once you vacate a property, all the blemishes come out,” he said. “They took it off and prepared it for the market.”

The Avery Coonley Playhouse was constructed in 1912 as a schoolhouse. The name “playhouse” comes from the school’s mission of education through theater and other performing arts; its grand hall contained a stage.

Industrialist Avery Coonley and wife Queene Ferry Avery had the school built on their estate, which featured a mansion designed by Wright and other structures. When the family moved to Washington, D.C. in 1917, the playhouse was turned into a mansion.

Turning the school into a home has been a work in progress ever since, McCurry said. The current owners have labored for years to make it more livable, including turning what was essentially a storage area into a family room.

The home contained some of the Wright’s most celebrated window designs, including school-appropriate stained-glass balloons, confetti and flags. Many of the original windows were sold off, with some hanging in museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The Smiths have worked to replace this windows with reworkings of the Wright designs.

“The replacements are museum-grade, too,” McCurry said. “They sought out the best makers they could.”

Despite the renovations, the home hits the market this week with a $50,000 price cut over its previous listing, and is now asking $750,000. Accepting price cuts is not uncommon in the higher-end suburban market, which is dealing with an abundance of inventory and a lack of younger buyers, who are putting off buying or choosing to live in the city.

Not even historic homes are spared. The Wright-designed home on the Coonley estate sold in February for $1.2 million, after eight years on the market and an original listing price of $2.9 million, Crain’s reported at the time. In early 2018, a Glencoe home designed by Wright sold for $752,000 after being listed at $800,000.

Despite the slumping market, McCurry said the playhouse should fare well. Most available homes don’t have the history and significance of the Smiths’ listing, he said.

“It shows really well now,” McCurry said. “A buyer will be able to own a piece of history, and also be able to live there.”

The listing went live on a private network Wednesday and will hit the MLS by Friday, he said..


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