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.