2650 W. Albion Avenue
Original Owner: David Cullen Rockola
Jane Sullivan has owned this property since 1977.
This 3-Flat was included in the 1988 Annual Spring House Tour and the 2008 Annual House Tour. In 1988, the featured apartment was occupied by Jane Sullivan and her then-husband William Wilkie. In 2008, it was occupied by Ms. Sullivan's son and daughter-in-law, Michael and Kelly Sullivan.
The home was built in 1926 by the family of Henry B. Rance. The family first lived at 6444 N. Talman Avenue in a frame Dutch Colonial Revival home built in 1922. Four years later, they build this large, elaborate, three-flat at 2650 W. Albion Avenue at a cost of $25,000. Occupied by brothers Arthur H. Rance and Hubert F. Rance and their families, the three-story house boasted all of the modern conveniences, as well as a ballroom, large back yard, stables, and garages.
The Rance family of developers and their business, The Prudential Realty Company, were well known within the West Ridge neighborhood. Henry B. Rance, a committed community activist, founded the North Town Improvement Association and served as the Association’s first president. This organization was credited with successfully promoting the area, resulting in the building of schools, the extension of the Devon streetcar line, and the paving of many area streets.
The elder Mr. Rance, known in the community as “Dad”, died in March 1929 as a result of injuries incurred when he was struck by a one-man Devon Avenue street car. Days prior to his death, he had been circulating a petition for two-man operation of the cars, declaring the one-man cars unsafe because the many duties required by the operators distracted them and endangered the lives of passengers, pedestrians and motorists. Every business in the area was closed on the morning of his burial service. “What North Town is today is primarily due to his efforts” was the eulogy offered by one of the district’s merchants. Mr. Bert Rance, the grandson of Henry B. Rance, continues to operate Prudential Realty from his office on Devon Avenue in Lincolnwood.
At the time of the 1988 Annual Spring House Tour, the tour Guidebook contained the following description:
The building has charming variations on the Neoclassical style and features an entry recessed at the base of a large bow bay. Elegant spiral columns support the bow and the classical detailing is completed by an arched doorway, ornate iron balconettes and stone urns on the parapet above. The building consists of two main apartments, each of which has three bedrooms, a sitting room, two full baths and one half bath. Attached to the building is a five-car heated garage. In the good old days, the ground floor boasted of a carriage room for baby buggies and a ballroom where dancers used to strut their stuff. The house is owned by Jane Sullivan who runs her own business for the care of the elderly, and her husband William Wilkie, a painter and sculptor whose work adorns several rooms of the house. They think of their home as "architecturally perfect" insofar as it faces south with a breakfast room on the east side, nicely situated to take advantage of the morning light, and a sitting room on the west side for sunlight at tea time. The generous living room (27 x 26) is handsomely decorated by leaded windows, by hand-wrought brass knobs on the doors, by Italian marble tile lining the baseboards. Two particularly interesting things in the Sullivan Wilkie House will remind visitors of the charm of a by-gone era. One of these is a butler's pantry adjacent to the kitchen and a special radiator outside the pantry, once used as a device for keeping food warm. Take note also of a special cabinet built into the wall next to the front door. It was here that the milkman, once upon a time, used to leave the morning milk. And while we're on the subject of yesteryear, this house, built in 1926, was once owned by David Cullen Rockola, the prominent manufacturer of Rock-Ola jukeboxes. And, it is said that within these walls Rockola entertained his friends in that grand style befitting his wealth and the spirit of the 'Roaring Twenties.
The 2008 Annual House Tour Guidebook included this perspective from its then-residents:
Michael and Kelly Sullivan now call this special residence home. Michael grew up in the building, and believes it was made in an era when builders and developers were working from a richer worldview, having come back from the war where they had witnessed a great deal of ugliness. Michael feels the building has elements of sacred proportions built into the architecture - proportions that reflect and amplify the dignity of the human person. As you walk through their home, look for the many features that make this building a neighborhood gem: arched doorways, brass door hardware, spiral columns, leaded glass windows, oak floors, and carved mantel pieces.