A Geneva landmark went on the market earlier this week. The Ida and William Davis home at 1101 Batavia Ave., built in 1892, is the only truly extravagant Queen Anne-style home in a town that was built by minimalist-leaning Scandinavians.
It is marked by the original wraparound porch, large chimneys with intricate brickwork, multiple bays, a square corner tower and varying pitches of the roof, not to mention a rare porte-cochere (from which someone could step directly into a carriage), 17 stained glass windows; a thick, rounded, exposed limestone foundation and an incredibly lovely spindle porch railing.
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In fact, it is such a gem that the state of Illinois has designated it a landmark to ensure its preservation for generations to come, said Marsha Reinecke, who has lived there with her husband, Mark, author and chief psychologist at Northwestern University Hospital in Chicago, and daughter, Gracie, since 2006. They are only the fifth owners in the venerable old home's 122-year history.
Designed by J.E. Scheller, the architect of both the Joliet Opera House block and Chicago's Madison Hall and Theater building, this showy, eclectic 3,100-square-foot home was commissioned by the Davises in 1891. Mr. Davis, an inventor of dairy machinery, had moved his family to Illinois from Wisconsin.
The home's architecture was influenced by both Charles Eastlake, a British architect who was known for fancy brickwork and geometric spindle configurations, and Richard Norman Shaw, a Scottish architect who optimized the use of windows to bring light into the home.
It seems that Shaw was also influenced by the work of his brother, who was a ship builder. You can see those nautical influences in this home, too -- from the widow's walk to the giant circular bay window that looks like the stern of a ship. The roofline pitches and chimney stacks also resemble masts and sails.
Inside, the Davis home features five bedrooms and 3½ baths. Three of the bedrooms were built to accommodate family while two were built to be used by servants. In fact, there is even a hidden doorway between the nursery (now the home's second office) and one of the servants' rooms so that the nanny could attend to the baby without disturbing the family. A rear staircase allowed the servants to move quietly up and down the stairs, once again, without disturbing the family.
On the main floor there is a generous living room with fireplace which the current owners have converted into a living/dining room because of its size. The original dining room now serves as the family room, and the library (which was originally a second parlor) acts as one of the home's two offices. There is also a powder room, a modern eat-in kitchen with St. Charles cabinets and a huge, 800-square-foot screened porch on the rear of the home.
"We rethought the floor plan to maximize it for our modern, casual lifestyle," said Reinecke, who has her own health and beauty product marketing and brand management firm. "We needed two home offices, for instance, so we use the library and the nursery as offices. And we like to entertain, so we made part of the living room into our dining room so that we could expand the table out into the living room space to hold 24 people for dinner. We also turned the two servants' rooms upstairs into our daughter's suite. She sleeps in one and uses the other as her study/music room and just loves it."
Throughout the home there are gorgeous oak doors, uniquely featuring five horizontal panels, as well as four sets of 9-foot pocket doors with English Regency-style brass hardware. The main staircase features intricate Eastlake-inspired hand-carvings, Reinecke said, along with a tobacco flower designs, similar to those she saw during a tour of the White House.
The five plaster-ceiling medallions seen throughout the front rooms on the main level are original to the home. According to the home's original specifications, they cost the Davises $2 each (which was a lot of money then) and they had specific meanings. The medallion in the original dining room, for instance, features fruit. The one in the library features shells to tie into the stained glass motif in that room, and so on.
The Reineckes uncovered the wide plank red oak floors in the home. They had been covered by carpeting since the 1950s. They were painstakingly restored by Azemi Sons Inc. of Maple Park -- 170 hours worth of hand-finishing, Reinecke said.
They also converted the carport under the huge back porch into a real garage; replaced the kitchen appliances and did some design tweaks; rebuilt the chimney; updated the electrical and heating and air conditioning systems; renovated one of the upstairs baths; built a storage closet on the porch which is big enough to hold their Ping-Pong table; and planted hundreds of daffodils in the yard.
Reinecke also scoured the Internet and antique stores to obtain appropriate lights for all of the rooms. The lantern in the hallway, for instance, hails from an old Kentucky estate and the light in the library is from an English pub.
But the biggest change the Reineckes made, according to their neighbors, is the relighting of the corner tower at night. It had been dark for at least 30 years so passers-by were thrilled when they could once again enjoy the beautiful stained glass at night.
"This house has been loved by a lot of people over the years. We, for instance, thoroughly enjoyed our daughter and her friends gathering here for photos before every prom and having sleepovers on the back porch and we enjoyed holding our own parties here with our friends," Reinecke said. "We also loved spending three seasons outside on the back porch, enjoying family dinners out there even when it was raining."
"But now that our daughter has gone away to college, it is time for us to get something smaller. But we are staying in Geneva. We can't enjoy the same lifestyle anywhere else. This is a special place," she added.
Since no historical home is complete without intrigue, however, it is important to reveal the scandal behind this lovely home. Shortly after it was completed in the 1890s, William Davis left on a business trip to sell his dairy machinery.
But he didn't return for seven years. So Ida filed for divorce and the judge awarded the house and the ten acres that surrounded it at that time to her. Unfortunately for William, he showed up late for the court date and lost out. Ida ended up living there until her death in 1944.
The next family to take up residence -- the Donald Hawley family -- wasn't scandalous at all, but they were notable. He was the owner of Hawley Products, a St. Charles company that produced molded fiber products such as acoustic diaphragms and airline trays. During World War II the company produced items for the military, like liners for helmets, aircraft engine components and centering discs for speakers, microphones and headsets. After the war it perfected the molding of plastics and started producing the American Tourister luggage line.
This home, which has lovingly sheltered five families and was featured on the 2007 Geneva Christmas Housewalk, is listed for $964,000.
"Because of its Landmark status with the state, there are beautiful tax incentives attached to this house," Reinecke said. "If you invest in restoring and improving the house -- like finishing the attic space or something -- there are tax credits available that can freeze your property taxes for up to seven years."
For more information, contact realty agent Patti Rambo at Miscella Realty, (630) 399-1572.