If you’re in the market for a brand new house, this beautiful 120-year-old mansion can be yours for free if you can figure out a way to move it off of the land.
Known as The House of Seven Gables, the mansion sits on 16 acres of land owned by the Loretto Convent in Wheaton, Ill., (around 50 kilometres west of Chicago). The nuns recently sold the land to a developer, whose plans to turn the area into a 48-house subdivision have been met with objections.
“It’s an intense loss to the community,” Wheaton Historic Commission’s chairperson Nancy Flannery told Global News.
Flannery is the woman behind the Craigslist ad for the free house, which has since been taken down. In the last 24 hours, Flannery said that she’s received over 100 inquiries about the house. She estimates that about 30 of those are sincerely interested people.
“It’s been pretty chaotic,” said Flannery.
She said the Historic Commission’s next steps are to work with the convent’s lawyers to see if a university or foundation would be interested in taking on the task of preserving the house on new land.
Flannery described Seven Gables as the “crown jewel” of the historic houses in Wheaton, a once-rural farm town where the wealthy would summer while golfing at the Chicago Golf Club, the first 18-hole golf club in the U.S.
Most of those other historic colony homes are now being used as permanent residences for Wheaton residents, said Flannery, but the aging sisters of the Loretto Convent could no longer maintain the property and decided to sell. The land not only has the mansion, but a chapel with a congregation of over 100 people, dormitories and a former daycare centre.
“It [the house] absolutely could have been repurposed for the community,” said Flannery.
The house, designed by architect Jarvis Hunt, was built in 1897 by industrialist Jay Morse as a wedding gift to his daughter Caroline Ely. Flannery explained that they were the first to have a telephone line installed in Wheaton.
Flannery knows that relocating the house will be expensive and difficult. Although she’s not sure how much it would cost to move the house, she estimates that the house itself is valued at around US $3 million to $3.5 million.
Despite its historical designation, Flannery explained that if the house has to split into pieces to be moved, it will be allowed. (“But from a historical perspective, it makes me cringe,” she said.)
“If we can save this house, wherever its location, it will be a valuable asset wherever it ends up,” said Flannery. “It’d be unfortunate to see it go under a wrecking ball.”