2236 W. Estes Avenue
Original Owner: Ellen Urich (1915-1920)
Third Owner: Martin Emmett Jeffers and family (1925-1985)
Present (1994) Owner: Frank Jeffers (1985-?)
This house looks like a single-family dwelling, but it was converted into a legal 2-Flat before the first owner, an unnamed architect, ever moved into it. The second floor was originally intended to be living space for his mother, but she died before the home was completed, so it was converted into an apartment. The front door was also changed at this time from the east side to the west side. The architect never lived in the house, so the first actual owner/occupant was Ellen Urich.
In 1920, Ellen Urich sold the house to Dr. Arthur Forshall and his wife, Rose. Dr. Forshall used the front sun porch as an examining room for his medical practice. The Forshalls sold the house to Martin Emmett Jeffers (1865-1966) in 1925. His grandson, Frank Jeffers still (1994) owns it.
Martin Emmett Jeffers died in 1966. He led a very full and interesting life. Before emigrating to the U.S., he was a lighthouse keeper in Westport, Ireland. Martin was the bridge tender in June 1915 when the steamer S.S. Eastland sank in the Chicago River and 812 lives were lost. He personally saved 20 people, and for his bravery, was accorded an award by the City of Chicago. Martin's exploits are recounted in the Eastland Disaster display at the Chicago Maritime Museum, 310 S. Racine Avenue.
Martin's son, also named Martin Emmett Jeffers, but known by his middle name, Emmett, also led an interesting life. Emmett was a Chicago Police Department detective who investigated several notorious crimes, among them the Schleusser-Peterson murders and he was on the tactical team that brought in Richard Speck.
From the street, the house looks like a hipped roof Prairie bungalow with large dormers, yet the sun porch window muntins are of a Victorian Queen Anne style. The exterior is typically clad in stucco and the building has been well maintained over the years, so it appears of indeterminate age to the casual observer.
As you come in the front door, you see a stairway leading to the upper apartment. Note how all of the woodwork is pristine.
The first floor apartment doorway is to the right. This home is filled with a variety of family memorabilia, antiques, and collectibles. Looking across the living room you see tulip bulb design leaded art glass windows flanking a distinctive Richardsonian arched brick fireplace. Both Roman and broken brick was used to great artistic effect here. The antiques toys in this room include a circa 1750 sled from Denmark. The sofa on the western wall is a Chinese Chippendale which was purchased in 1925 by Frank's mother. The angels in the curio case were a gift from the granddaughter of THE Mrs. Catherine O'Leary of Great Chicago Fire infamy, who gave it to Frank's mother.
The center hallway leads to two bedrooms with a dining room on the east. The original built-in hall mirror and dining room hutch have a classical column motif and are very interesting. There is an almost open floor plan, with all rooms staggered for privacy. The bathroom was remodeled in 1940, with high-glaze tiles that are no longer fabricated because of their lead content. The rear bedroom has its original electric dresser light which was converted from gas as were all of the home's fixtures. By World War I, most homes installed only electric lights, but using gas this late was not unheard of.
In the rear we come to the kitchen and its pantry, which still has small doors for milk and ice delivery. Walking out to the back porch one will note the new (1994) Thermopane windows by Bazzoni, with rounded tops, styled after the front sun porch windows. The front shed dormer in the upstairs apartment also has new Thermopane windows.
Frank's backyard is a true labor of love, complete with deck, gazebo, trellis, fountain, garden ornaments, and benches. The picturesque vine-smothered cedar garage was made in 1924 from a Sears kit for horseless carriages.