1404 W. Jarvis Avenue
Architect: George Grant Elmslie
Original Owner: Sinclair Seaton
Second Owners: Dr. Bertha Miller and her husband.
Third Owner: Charles Hoffman
This 2-Flat building was described by one prominent local real estate agent in the 1990s as "a very tired property." If a nearly intact vintage home with very little updating means "tired", then her description probably fits. However, the only features the Torreys did not appreciate were recent "improvements", like the Eurostyle kitchen. They bemoan losing the original solid oak, glass fronted cabinets that still exist upstairs in the rental unit. Modern just doesn't fit here.
A building contractor named Sinclair Seaton constructed this two-flat in 1912, probably with the help of architect George Grant Elmslie. The severe masonry exterior is a model of restraint with virtually no ornamentation, except for unobtrusive stonework at the top of the front sun porch's vertical piers. The most visibly interesting features on the exterior are the staggered, clay tile, hipped roof with its broad eaves and the multipaned French windows on the sun porches. Long since gone is an iron portico that hung over the front door suspended by chains and cleaver, retractable metal and canvas awnings over the front windows for shade. The coach house in back features a two-car garage on the ground floor, with the original harness and bridle cabinets, and a storage loft (former hayloft) above.
The first resident owners were Dr. Bertha Miller and her husband. They sold the property to Charles Hoffman and then it was purchased in 1935 by Arthur Mastin Millard and his wife, Alice. Arthur Millard was a Chicago Republican who challenged incumbent, William Hale Thompson, to be the Republican candidate for Mayor in the 1923 election. He lost to Thompson, and Thompson lost to Chicago Democrat, William Emmett Dever.
During World War II, rumor has it that submarine parts were produced in the coach house in back as part of the war effort. This may explain why the property is dual-zoned for commercial and residential use and why manufacturing benches and metal presses were in the coach house's hayloft.
Alice Millard continued to live in the house until she passed away on the premises in 1978. Davey and Marilyn Packer purchased this house in 1983 from an attorney named John W. Mauck. They modernized some of the mechanical systems and the first floor kitchen. They sold the property to David and Amanda Torrey in 1989.
The Torreys have tried to restore the building to what they think it looked like in 1912. Each floor has 2,200 sq.ft. of space plus an attic and basement. The Torreys occupy the first floor and use the second floor as rental property. There are an additional 1,000 sq.ft. in the coach house which can be used as storage space.
Access to the two-flat is through a marble entry vestibule, where a leather-like lincrusta paneled stairwell leads to the tenant's unit. All interior rooms, except the kitchen, have never (1994) been updated. The entry foyer and living room are paneled with quarter sawn oak from floor to ceiling. A stenciled Art Nouveau frieze runs above the paneling, with canvases inlaid between hand-painted and gilt beams. If you look carefully, you can see the angelic cherubs and cornucopia painted on the beams. The east wall is filled by a massive fireplace flanked by built-in bookcases and Scottish thistle stained glass windows. Solid oak radiator benches and French windows surround the sun porch.
Sliding glass pocket doors separate the living room and dining room. A built-in hutch and exquisite Prairie School woodwork highlight the dining room. The fumed oak lighting fixtures in the dining room and sun porch are period originals. Most of the other lamps and lights are circa 1912, except the wall sconces, which are reproductions. In both rooms, there are stained glass windows from Tifany of Chicago. These front rooms and the first bedroom are furnished with over 30 pieces of Arts and Crafts furniture, mostly replicated.
There are four bedrooms and three bathrooms off the long hallway leading to the rear. The master bedroom is in back. Exiting the kitchen, the Torreys installed a fortified side door (circa 1906) that has massive prairie design decorative iron grates.
S013-2304 Photo of Torrey House, 1404 W. Jarvis Ave., 1994 House Tour.