Mark Boyer, Curbed Chicago
Famous houses seen in the movies, like the Ferris Bueller and Home Alone houses, have been getting plenty of attention this year. Here's one more, albeit less well-known, to add to the list: the Lincoln Park home where scenes from the 1993 Harrison Ford thriller "The Fugitive" were filmed just came back on the market.
As the story goes, a Polish-born doctor named Norbert Gleicher, who has lived in the home since the mid-'80s, met Harrison Ford and director Andrew Davis at a restaurant during the early stages of film production. According to listing agent Margaret Wilczek, Ford fell in love with the home and Davis decided to film some early scenes scenes there, and he's said to have based some elements of Dr. Richard Kimble's character on Gleicher (both are doctors with beards, for example). But the story doesn't end there; Curbed visited the home to have a look inside, and to learn more about its history.
An architect named Ron Ysla bought the slightly oversize (36'x126') lot from the city in 1979 for a mere $45,000, and set to work designing and building his dream home. When completed, the home was half its current size (the top two floors were added later), but it did have many of the same features, like the staircase, the open floorplan on the first floor, and the second-floor catwalk that passes over the living room.
The house was the first one Ysla designed and built, but he didn't live there long. When Ysla and his wife had their first child, they decided to move to Winnetka, deeming the home a death trap for small children. (Ironically, soon after the Ysla family moved into a one-story ranch house on the North Shore, one of his kids tumbled down the basement stairs, with no serious injuries, thankfully.)
The home was then sold for $510,000 to J. Roderick MacArthur, son of philanthropists John D. and Catherine T., who put his own fingerprint on the house, adding a skylight, a glass floor to the catwalk, and travertine tile in the living room.
Little Mac (as he was known in philanthropic circles) also started digging what Ysla describes as a Batman-style slot in what is now the dining room floor, where you could slip through a tube and end up in the indoor swimming pool. Alas, MacArthur was never able to see that plan through. He died of pancreatic cancer in 1984.
"When he died, I really considered very strongly buying it back," Ysla says. "I never should have sold it in the first place." But Ysla passed on it, and Dr. Gleicher ended up buying the place. The home was in rough shape when Gleicher acquired it in 1986, so he filled in the hole in the floor left by the previous owner, and made some other cosmetic changes.
A 1988 article in the Chicago Tribune Magazine shows Gleicher standing in front of the stairs, and on the catwalk above, piano strings serve as handrails (those have since been replaced with metal bars.) When Gleicher first saw the place, he told the Trib that he knew "that's it! I love the idea of loft spaces and lots of walls; this place gives the feeling of a loft. It's unusual."
When The Fugitive was filmed in the early '90s, the structure of the home was mostly the same as it had been in 1980. By then, Ysla had moved to California, and he first learned that the home he built had been used in the movie at the theater. "In California, I was in the theater, and I screamed out loud, 'That's my house!'" Ysla recalls.
Still interested in buying it back, he contacted Gleicher to ask if he was thinking of selling, but Gleicher told him that he was planning to expand, and that it would likely be much more expensive. And expand he did! Gleicher added two floors, an elevator, a couple of additional bedrooms, a study, and a roof deck over the garage. The four-story home now towers over its neighbors, and the elevator he installed blocks some of the windows facing Wisconsin Street, but the home still gets a great deal of natural light from both the front and rear exposures, as well as the skylight.
The home now measures 6,129 square feet, with five bedrooms and five full baths. The living room ceiling soars all the way up to the fourth floor, and Gleicher makes good use of every inch of wall space, showcasing his enormous art collection. As impressive as the space is, the home could use some upgrades and modernizations. The kitchen, for example, is looking a bit dated, and an big air conditioning system was installed on the roof without any soundproofing, creating a jaw-rattling buzz on the fourth floor. But, on the other hand, there's nothing else quite like it in the city.
So, will this place sell faster than the Home Alone or Ferris Bueller houses? It's too soon to tell, but at $3.95 million, it's priced higher than either of them.
•Listing: 336 W. Wisconsin St. [Prudential Rubloff]
Photo by Mark Boyer, Curbed Chicago