1430 W. Berwyn
1430 W. Berwyn
The greystone home at 1430 W. Berwyn is a source of fascination for those who have stumbled upon it and admired the caryatids and other countless architectural artifacts that decorate the house and surrounding courtyard. However, the eclectic ornamentation on the outside of the building is only a small hint of what is found inside. When Michael Pilsner moved into his apartment on the building’s second floor two weeks ago, all he brought with him was a duffel bag. There wasn’t room for anything else.
His apartment came fully furnished and included an occasional drop-in roommate, the building’s owner Ronald Flores*. Mr. Flores bought the property in 1975 for $80,000 and made decorating it inside and out one of his personal hobbies. Trying to discern fact from fiction about this building is no easy task, as Mr. Flores is every bit as eccentric and mysterious as his home.
Let’s start with the facts. The house was built in 1904 for a man by the name of C. Christiansen. The architect was George Pfeiffer, who later ended up moving to Miami designing Art Deco buildings, and the builder was John P. Flick. With its gothic embellishments and heavily rusticated limestone façade, it is an interesting mix of Gothic and Romanesque styles. Its defining caryatids were a later addition by Mr. Flores. He spotted one such caryatid in a sculptor’s studio and asked for him to make three more to fit the turret. Though they look like bronze from below, in actuality they are hollow and constructed of green-painted plaster.
It is not surprising that a home bedecked with extraordinary ornament on its exterior would have an unconventional interior, but few could imagine just how over-the-top it is. Every iota of space in the second floor apartment is lavishly decorated in 18th century Rococo style . . . on steroids. It feels more like a museum than a home – all that’s missing are tourists and red velvet ropes. There isn’t a single comfortable chair to sit in or place to put up your feet. However, there is no shortage of unexpected things to look at.
According to Mr. Flores, the unlikely ornate gold-painted moldings that decorate the walls and turret were already there when he bought the home, as were many of architectural artifacts filling the courtyard. He said that the furnishings are a mix of things he found in the house and antiques he brought over from a church in Elgin he once owned and lived in for a few years. The focal point of the apartment is the light fixture hanging from the mirrored turret. Like so much of the house, it too is a mystery.
One important mystery of the home has been solved: what the original owners, Mr. And Mrs. C. Christiansen, looked like. Today their busts sit on either side of the living room doors. Apparently, not long after moving into the home a large family appeared at his door claiming to be the descendants of the original owners. One of them had the Christiansen busts in his basement which he gave to Mr. Flores. Dressed in military costumes Flores found in one of his closets, Mr. and Mrs. Christiansen regally stand watch over the 1430 W. Berwyn home.
Ronald Flores owned and managed a number of properties across Chicago. Towards the end of his life (see footnote below) he mostly lived in Elgin. And if the rumors are true, his house there was even more excessive and eccentric than this home in Andersonville. As you can tell, much of the story behind this home is buried in mystery. If you happen to have any information about the house please share it below. In the meantime, take a PHOTO TOUR of the home’s interior, and let us know what you think!
*UPDATE: Since the writing of this post, Mr. Flores passed away in the early winter of 2010.
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There was a C. Christiansen Co at 792 Grand Ave. in Chicago that made workbenches. Don’t know if it is the same person. http://www.penturners.org/forum/showthread.php?t=65298
Interesting. Ronald said the the Christiansens were from Sweden which would make sense considering the history of Andersonville. He said that the family that appeared on his doorstep years ago were all “blondes”. However, its tough as I said, to discern fact from fiction when it comes to this home and its owner. Does anyone else know anything about the owners?
It’s like something out of an Alfred Hitchcock episode.
So happy to see more photos! What a treat!
this guy is a slumlord and a drug user. He has made his money ripping off tenants and violating slum laws. If you see him, stay clear. His giant whale kathy is even worse.
That would explain it. The house and furnishings are certainly on steroids as
Caroline makes pretty clear.
I had a friend who lived in that freak show of a place for exactly 2 days back in 1989. Tom is right, weirdo alert fo sho…
There is a discussion brewing on the Forgotten Chicago forum about this topic > http://forgottenchicago.com/forum/5/3125/1430_w__berwyn_caryatids
i lived in this house for 2 and a half months! Ronald Flores is a creepy old !He is a slum lord and he stole money from me! He said racist things and walked around the house naked from time to time! Stay away from him, and i suggest to everyone not to move into this house – it’s not worth it!
thanks for this! I always wonder about this house. I also wonder about the unoccupied animal cages in the side-yard there
I didn’t notice the animal cages. They’re every bit as much of a mystery as everything else I am sure.
I lived in the garden apt in 2004-2005…what a BIZARRE experience! We stuck around for the whole year, but Ronald was definitely a character. He made a few comments about us having parties with lots of “pretty young girls” (I was in college) and reminded us that we could sunbathe nude on the roof if we wanted. It was definitely sketchy, but he seemed harmless enough. Never actually bothered us or anything. And it was worth it just for the looks on people’s faces when we had guests!
The garden apt has a shower room that was working as of 2004. It was a closed-off room with a drain in the floor, with a shower head on top and a lion’s head that spit out water into a sink. We actually used it a time or two , but most of the time it was just a conversation piece.
Loved seeing this article…thanks!
Lived in the garden apt. 1987-1993, I took showers in that showersteam room every day! I encountered ghosts in that apartment many times, while living there. Ron was a character! The neighbors hated him and still do! He was most defintely shady and odd! I have known Ron Flores for 30+ yrs. I am just really sad that no one has anything pleasant to say about him. I wish that he was a better man.
It certainly is NOT a pleasure being a neighbor to this house. There is a consistent parade of disturbed people in and out of there, often with a penchant for drinking and loud swearing late at night, during the day, whenever. And they love to use a buzz saw. Too bad this “treasure” was evident to all the ppl who have to put up with all the crap attached to it.
First and foremost, thank you very much to Caroline Nye for her fine coverage of the archatecture and of the estate. What information has been shared here comes as new news to me. The origins and the evolution of the building were unbeknownst to me prior to this article and Caroline’s work. After residing at the property for over three months I’m interested in some of the comments regarding the character of the owners as I have had the priviledge to come to know them in my time as a tenant I would certainly vouch for either of them as upstanding and respectable. Perhaps the parades of disturbed people, buzz saw aficionados, alcohol/profanity/narcotic usage, cages for animals, and racism ended before my tenure at this treasure or perhaps they were exaggerations. I can only attest to what I’ve experienced or rather the absence there of. I will say that my fellow residents, Ronald, and Kathy all pride ourselves on being good neighbors and a value to the community of Andersonville as well as the great city of Chicago.
Thank you again Caroline.
M. Pilsner. I am the mother of Ronnie’s illegitimate daughter. Believe all you have heard about him! He could be very charming, but he was definately not a good person.
I’m sad to report news of Ronald Flores’s recent death. Though much of it lies shrouded in mystery, the story his home tells is a testament to the interesting life he lead. I feel lucky to have met and been welcomed into the home of such a fascinating figure. Andersonville will never be quite the same without him.
All the cobble stones in the yard came from the Trolley base in the center of Ashland Ave., when they had trolleys that is. As progress dictated the city covered over the tracks, it was stable ground, and cost effective.
Well, when the “City” decided to put in flower beds in the center of Ashland they had to dig up the center. Low and behold, they found the old trolley tracks and cobble stone (bricks) bed. And back then they just dug it up and sent it to land fill.
Ron got wind of it and asked a Forman if he could have some of them, as it would save them the expense of disposing of the cobble stones.
The Forman agreed to allow Ron to get what ever he wanted after hours as not to disturb the workmen.
So, Ron got in his old beaten up red 1/2 ton pickup with a half dozen workers he hired off the street, and they went to Ashland and gathered enough to pave what everyone can see today.
Ron had a pile of them in the back yard for years until he decided to do some landscaping.
Well, before he put in the stones, he had large 7′ bushes obscuring the then front yard. I talked him into landscaping the front so people could see his magnificent home. He obviously agreed.
The front fence came from a Chicago building downtown and is installed “upside down” on purpose. Ron and I believe they came from a famous Chicago brothel. Ron added the spear heads and I got him to paint them royal colors, black and Gold.
Anyway, The uneven nature of the cobble stones was purposeful.
I didn’t realize this until I came back from a business trip to Strasbourg France for Lilly pharmaceutical, that since Ron loved 18th century French, he wanted the feel of old Europe. And walking down Strasbourg I understood.
Ron and I celebrated the finish with a $1300 bottle of LOUIS XII coniac.
Also, go here for photos and videos of the place from roof-deck to basement:
I lived there for 4.5 years and got to know the intimate details of the house. From the beauty of the Not-Garden to the lavish life style of one of the least understood and most eclectic eccentric steward of Chicago/Edgewater/Andersonville history. And I’m glad we were close friends and room mates. I know the truth about all the good and disparaging words. And I know and have documented those years for the Edgewater Historical Society and for the history buffs 100-200 years from now.
Complaining about a person when the more important discussion is architecture seems personal and petty. History will remember important information and not necessarly the venting of personal feelings. Some of us archetecture fans don’t care about that now.
What ever is said and done, my friend the late Ron Flores is a part of history and no one can change that…..
Did your good friend ever mention his daughter who he never provided for? If memory serves, she was my “little problem”.
Just found out about Ron’s death. I was a long time friend of Ron’s. I truly loved the man, but I saw him for what he was. I have known him over 10 years. I haven’t contacted him in while. I had to back away from him from being hurt. I live in Memphis TN. I feel very sad about this. I knew about his son, but never knew he had a daughter. Did he keep contact with you and your daughter at all? If he treated you and your daughter that way, I feel bad for both of you. You’re right he could have been a better person. If you’d like to talk sometime you can email me anytime. I never got the chance to see the church in Elgin. He said he decorated like a castle. We were both fascinated with castles at the time. I still visit Chicago from time to time. I was going to make a trip this summer to see him. Take care. Judith.
Would love to contact you – my email is firstname.lastname@example.org – I don’t know yours. Regards, Pauline
About the wild parties: In the 4.5 years I lived there Ron or I never had any of those wild parties. Yes it is true that there were wild paganistic parties, but it came from the tenants. There was a nice asian family that was there, they never had parties. The single mother and teenage sone that moved in after the asian family, now they had some wild parties. The son would have his under aged buddies come over for a “keg” party. I know, I called the police on them twice. At one of the kids parties there were about 40 co-eds. His mother was working every time the kid had parties. She worked at some travel company. Read the police reports if there’s doubt….. Then she could not keep up with the rent and had to have a couple “rent” parties to raise money. She let small childern run arount on the roof top unsupervised , at that party. Then there was these unrelated room mates, eg; just rented room and did not know each other prior to moving in, several sets, that had wild parties. Then there was this alcholic that was thrown out because he walked around naked. Or the family that had a gunman come in and shoot someone. They all rented next door at 1426. There was some college students that rented the garden apt in 1430. Now they had some of the best orgy type parties. Naked people showering in the uber shower. Under aged on roof top. Yes all the wild parties were ALL from his tenants. So by inference if you were one of those, then some of the above DA’s above are upset with you.
Anyway, about the shady characters. Yes, you are correct. What Ron did was to give homeless people an opportunity to work and get paid. So I guess you are one of those type of people that look down on people that are on hard times.
Some of them had real skills and some were just workers. Ron did have a superintendent at another building he owned that came by often, until he went upstate on vacation. They found a whole storage closet full of guns, knifes, and other items.
And you’re correct to be wary when they were around. Most of them were good, but there was some……. Well like that guy that worked for Ron for a year or so then when Ron let him be night guard at one of his construction sites, the guy moved in two hookers and was working them. Ron got rid of him as soon as he found out.
There were pleasant times too.
I just now saw your comments for the first time. What a wealth of useful and interesting information! Thank you for sharing your version of the story surrounding Mr. Flores and his home.
Since you seem to have known Mr. Flores personally, I’d love for you to share more of your insights on the eccentric furnishings within the second floor apartment. Mr. Flores told me that most everything within the apartment was there when he bought the place in 1975. Considering the value and unique nature of much of the interior, I was hesitant to trust that Mr. Flores was not solely responsible for the decor. Do you know any more details on how the decorations of the upstairs apartment came to be? If so, I’d love for you to share.
And for everyone else: If you were searching for the images Red Raven mentioned (as I was inclined to do) – they are hard to find but interesting all the same. Go to his site: redravenproductions.com. In the sidebar click on “Websites Developed.” Scroll down until you see “Flores Properties.” This will lead you to some images and information on 1430 W. Berwyn.
Thanks again Red Raven!
Tom get the facts right more like 8 years I worked for him .
To all how think they know Ron they don’t.all the stone work.the gate in the front and ironwork on the roof I did .i work for Ron for about ,8yrs .sure he was odd and lied alot to other people but I know him and alot of the truth .i did work on this house and the one in Elgin il. On 200 block of Chicago ave and this church he lived in downtown Elgin .do i know first hand the sorry behind the stories if you want to know the true history of this house feel free to contact me Russellroe
I have tons of pics. Before work was done some after of 1430, and Elgin church and homes
I was a long time friend of Ron’s. I just found out this summer he died. I live out of state. Don’t get to Chicago too much anymore. I was going to visit him this summer, but I was a little too late. I found out later he died on Nov. 29, 2010. Would you happen to know what cemetery he is buried at? Also, you mentioned you had pictures of the church he lived in in Elgin. Never got the chance to see it. Ron and I were infatuated with castles at the time. I really wanted to see it. Is there anyway you could email me pictures of the church?
hi ron talked about you a lot i worked for him over 8 years i have many pics. i am scanning them now i will send you pics. of all of it ..he was creamated his ex wife or son have them …
Just came on this website today. Haven’t checked it lately. Ron was always working on these buildings with his work crew. You sound loyal to Ron. So you say Ron was cremated? Sad. I guess I was the last to know. That would be great if you could email the pictures. At least I would have that as a memory. You can email anytime.
Red did you tell them about your an rons little hidden video closet in rons bedroom.opps did I say that out loud lol I have pics of it so lets get the facts right…
Hidden video? Now that sounds like the Ronnie I knew. lol
Hi. Glad to find out more information about this house. I walked by there this weekend and some people were sitting in the chairs amongst the trees on the east side of the house.
I read the earlier postings about the neighbors in the building next door. Several years ago, I was walking east down Berwyn toward the El on my way to work in the morning. As I approached the building to the east of “The Castle,” there stood a man in the first floor front window…completely naked and masturbating. As I got closer, I noticed an older man crouching by the chain link fence to the east of the building. He was watching the naked guy. Really don’t know what was going on, but I thought it not appropriate for daytime.
Anyone know who lives in “The Castle” now after the owner’s death?