River North is a section of Chicago that’s a little north and west of the main skyscraper areas of the city. So finding a 28th-floor penthouse gives one a perspective not easy to replicate.

Of course, it helps when the ceilings are 14 feet tall with edge-to-edge glass. The building is called The Montgomery because it was the home of catalog retailer Montgomery Wards, who began operations in 1872 and folded in 2001. It was an omnipresent second fiddle to Sears. Nicknamed Monty Wards, in 1939 it was a Wards’ copywriter who created Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer. In the late 1980s Wards also broke the $1,000 price point for a home computer during a “Back to School” sale.

Anyway, the building dates from the 1970s and was converted to condos in 2005, five years after Wards announced its liquidation. Being a 1970s office building, it’s not the super sexy high-rise you’d expect to see in Chicago today, but the four-cornered supports enable a tremendous amount of glass across the front and rear elevations. Skirting the top floor of the building is the view seen in the opening photo. You should also note that as a former office building, there are no balconies – except the penthouses with their rooftop terraces.

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caponeIt was his first home in Chicago, and his mother lived there until her death, and in 2019, you could own a slice of Al Capone history for practically a song.

“I came to Chicago with $40 in my pocket,” Alphonse Gabriel Capone said once, and not long after that he began working for mobster Johnny Torrio. Not long after that, he and his family moved into the six bedroom, two apartment Park Manor home located at 7244 South Prairie Ave.

“This was the Chicago home of Al Capone and Family. Al Capone and family began to move into the place on August 8,1923,” explained listing agent Ryan Smith with Re/Max Properties. “The ownership was under Mae and Theresa Capone.”

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Our Steal: Colin Hebson of Dream Town Realty has listed 3126 W. Wallen Avenue, Chicago, Illinois for $2 million.

From world-class museums and epic shopping down the Magnificent Mile, to its Michelin Star restaurants and spectacular sports, there’s a lot to love about the Windy City. Which is precisely why we decided to take a closer look at Chicago real estate in our latest Splurge vs. Steal. Here we pin two exquisite properties against one another, each with excellent neighborhoods and amenities but with price points that are miles apart. Which one would you choose, the Lincoln Park Splurge or the West Ridge Steal?

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Does living on the top floor of most high-rises still feel like living in the basement?  Chicago’s 100-story John Hancock Center will change all that.  Whereas the tallest residential home in Dallas is a 42nd floor penthouse, the Hancock’s condos don’t start until the 44th floor and continue all the way to the 92nd floor.  Completed in 1969, the Hancock Tower is one of the most recognized buildings in Chicago and offers up some surprisingly inexpensive homes with incomparable city and Lake Michigan views.

Sure, Chicago winters are unkind, but the summers, when second home ownership has its privileges, offer a plethora of activities to shake off the cold and grey. The Hancock is in the thick of everything Chicago has to offer.  It’s right on Michigan Avenue in the thick of the city’s tony shopping. It’s a two-block walk to the beach and is a 10-minute taxi to Millennium Park and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Sizes range from 550-square-foot studios to ~1,800-square-foot, three-bedroom units. Of course, with over 700 units, many have been combined for larger spaces. Prices are surprisingly affordable with studios starting just below $200,000 while three-bedroom units trade in the $500,000 to $800,000 range depending on renovation. Let’s look at both ends of the market and with 703 units, there’s always something great for sale.

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mansionAnne Rice’s former New Orleans mansion got another price haircut, you can’t get in or out of Bali right now, we’re ogling a gorgeous abode on Manhattan Beach, California, and we also find out what cities are tops when it comes to summer destinations.

This is what we’ve been reading. What are you reading?

Anne Rice’s Former NOLA Mansion Gets Another Price Reduction

We’ve written about the New Orleans mansion that author Anne Rice once called home — it was first listed in 2017 at $5 million, and the price was reduced to $4.5 million last year. (more…)

RiversideHe designed 33 homes in Riverside, California, and the one acclaimed architect Robert Spurgeon Jr. built for his parents, Robert Sr. and Lillian, is now up for grabs.

Riverside, albeit landlocked in the Inland Empire, is actually an ideal second home location for a few factors — it’s an easy hour drive to the beach, and less than 45 minutes to Disneyland, for one. It’s also home to Fairmount Park, an urban oasis with a stocked pond that is a refuge to several species of birds — and designed by the firm of Frederick Law Olmstead, who designed New York’s Central Park.

And back in the day (in fact, when we say “back in the day” in this case, we mean exactly around the time Spurgeon built this home), Riverside’s close proximity to Hollywood, along with all its interesting architecture, made it one of the frequent spots film studios would pick for the perfect scenery for their movies, including the 1919 film Boots, starring Dorothy Gish.

On days you don’t want to drive to the beach or Disneyland, there is still plenty to do closer to home. The California Citrus State Park (Riverside is believed to be the birthplace of California’s citrus industry) provides ranger-led tours, fruit tastings, and more.

You can also tour the historic Mission Inn, and hike up to Mount Rubidoux, and the University of California Riverside offers 39 acres of botanic gardens, plus several museums.

From left: Robert Spurgeon Sr., Lillian, granddaughter Gloria, daughter Grace, and Robert Spurgeon, Jr. Right: An early photo of the home Spurgeon designed for his parents (Photo courtesy Evergreen Memorial Historic Cemetery).

It was this town that the Spurgeon family ended up settling in, living before in Chicago, New York, and Denver. His parents moved there not long after the younger Sturgeon returned to the country after serving in World War II, to assist his sister after her husband died. He joined the rest of the family not long after that, eventually building homes and properties all over Riverside, including the employee homes for Pinkerton Detective heir Allan Pinkerton, the rebuilding of the Porter House, and the Elijah Parker House. (more…)

[Editor’s note: Merry Christmas! This week, we’re taking time off to focus on our loved ones, so we are sharing some of our favorite stories from this year. Keep an eye out for our top features from the archives as we rest and get ready for a brilliant 2018! Cheers, from Candy and the entire staff at CandysDirt.com and SecondShelters.com!]

I grew up around Frank Lloyd Wright architecture, so when I saw one of his homes on the market near my old stomping grounds, I had to share it with you.  It’s a type of architecture not often found in Dallas (one house and the Kalita Humphreys theater are all I know of) where prairie style means something completely different.

Often when I write about second homes, I’m writing about areas to consider. This time I’m dictating exactly which second home you must purchase.  I’m doing this because it’s one thing to impress your friends by owning a second home, but it’s a complete mic drop to add that it’s a Frank Lloyd Wright prairie-style home.

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Nine years before Sammy Hagar purchased nearly 10 acres on Maui, he helped pen Why Can’t This Be Love for Van Halen’s “5150” album, perhaps presaging the purchase. It was the band’s first album featuring Hagar, who had replaced David Lee Roth.  Oddly enough, it was about this time that I’d run into Hagar at the Versace store in Chicago.

A friend and I were upstairs in the men’s department trying on fabulous, though gawd-awful-expensive clothes we had no hope of buying. All the while, our salesman/friend plied us with (free) champagne from the store’s bar. A fun Saturday.  Hagar and entourage came in and set up shop at the other end of the room.  We were laughing and carrying on while another salesman helped them.  A very staid group, they kept looking over, we assumed wondering who the heck we were. Being more Eurythmics than Van Halen, we didn’t really pay them any mind.  Such was life at 24.

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