A five-bedroom Lake Bluff mansion that was built in 1923 and designed by architect David Adler sold on Thursday for $3.2 million, far less than the nearly $6 million that the sellers once had asked for it.
Known as the Carolyn Morse Ely estate after its first owner, the 7,229-square-foot chateau-style mansion on Moffett Road is very similar to the 17th-century Pavillon de la Lanterne chateau at Versailles, France, according to the 2004 book "North Shore Chicago." The architectural term "lanterne" describes a building that one can see all the way through, such as the Lake Bluff mansion, which is only one room wide.
Ely, whose father, Jay C. Morse, was a steel magnate, had some familiarity with enlisting noted architects to design grand mansions. In 1897, she and her then-husband, Arthur Ely, hired Jarvis Hunt to draw up plans for a gabled mansion immediately south of the Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton that was known as the House of Seven Gables. Today, that Wheaton mansion is used as a chapel by a convent.
After the Elys' divorce, Carolyn Morse Ely sold the Wheaton mansion in 1914 and decamped to the North Shore, hiring Adler in 1914 to design the Lake Bluff mansion. She lived in a cottage on what then was a 17-acre estate in Lake Bluff until the main house was completed in 1923. Today, the mansion sits on almost 6 acres at the end of a secluded drive.
The mansion's sellers, Thomas and Jane O'Neill, bought the house from noted trial lawyer Max Wildman in 1998 and later renovated it. Features in the mansion include 7-1/2 baths, an original antique Chinese mural in the living room, paneled pine walls that were imported from France, original sconces and chandeliers and four fireplaces.
Ely only lived in the mansion for about five years, before she moved to an Adler-designed apartment on the Gold Coast.
The sellers first listed the mansion in 2013 for $5.995 million. They reduced its asking price in 2014 to $5.495 million and then to $4.995 million. In April, they cut the listing price further to $4.495 million, and they reduced it yet again in June to its final asking price of $3.995 million.
Public records do not yet identify the buyers. Listing agent Andra O'Neill of @properties declined to comment to Elite Street on the sale.
Bob Goldsborough is a freelance reporter.