The Newest East Side Mansion
Developer Robert Schmidt's clever addition to Back Bay area is new but old.
Robert E. Schmidt III is a developer, and these folks tend to have a sharp eye for hidden value in the city’s real estate. This is especially true when it comes to selecting a site for one’s own residence, all the more so if it’s in a densely built, highly developed historic district like Northpoint South.
Schmidt’s practiced eye settled on a property on N. Terrace Ave., the Willibald Hoffman house, a Georgian Revival mansion designed by Ferry & Clas in 1906. The home was sited on a large, 18,133-square-foot lot. After negotiations with Patricia Van Alyea, the owner of the home, and in consultation with the neighbors, Schmidt bought 7,843 square feet of the lot facing on N. Terrace Ave. at the foot of E. Back Bay and set about creating a home that would suit his purposes and conform to the architectural requirements of the historic district.
This required an appearance before the Historic Preservation Commission, which took place on December 9th, 2014.
According to the minutes of the meeting:
The proposed new house is a two-story, side-gabled stucco building with regularly placed all-wood windows and a door on the front elevation. The front windows are deeply inset into the wall for a dramatic effect. The roof is topped with standing seam metal panels–a material that may seem contemporary but actually has been in use for hundreds of years.
The designers took great care to fit the new house into the existing context of the neighborhood without overbuilding the lot. Nevertheless it is a sizable house with about 6,000 square feet of living space on three floors including the lower level.
Considerable care was taken during the design process to reflect the massing, style, materials and setbacks that are common in the general vicinity of the new house. The house is a welcome addition to the district and fills out the block face.
Robert Schmidt, the owner, said he made personal contact with the four surrounding neighbors and there was a small reception for about 25 people in August. He also met last night with four people from the Water Tower neighborhood.
The home received the unanimous consent of the seven-member body, and construction commenced, occupying much of 2015 and 2016. The home has three levels of finished living area, including the basement.
Access between the floors is aided by a 1,000 lb. capacity winding-drum style Waupaca elevator that cost $23,952. The Schmidt family received Certificate of Occupancy NOCC-17-00803 on April 28th, 2017, and moved into the new house.
The Home Today
The restrained home with simple, regular fenestration was designed by Northworks, a Chicago architecture firm. The designer was able to integrate a demonstrably 21st Century home into the context of a traditional early 20th Century neighborhood, causing harm to neither.
If the home had tried too hard to replicate its neighbors, it would surely stand out as an impostor — an uninvited guest at a costume party. Yet if it tried too hard to make a statement of modernity, it would seem an affront to the dignity of the neighbors.
The home has a limestone walk from the sidewalk to the front door. It rises at no more than two steps per landing, thus eliminating the need for railings. Five steps lead to the glass entryway. To the south of the home, a driveway rises to a slight crest before descending to the lower level garage, which is effectively hidden from the street. The south side of the house has a multistory window, while the north side has just a few windows on the second floor and some mechanical systems tacked on somewhat unattractively.
Overall the effect is pleasant, with the building standing shoulder-by-shoulder with its much older neighbors.
About Robert E. Schmidt III
Robert E. Schmidt III is the founder and owner of Boulder Venture, a development firm he established in 1991. The company has built office and retail spaces in the vicinity, including the Midtown Center, a 56-acre redevelopment of the former Capitol Court. The project nearest his home is the redevelopment of a former gas station at the southwest corner of N. Prospect and E. North avenues into a single-story building housing Ian’s Pizza and other retail outlets.
- Style: Traditional Contemporary Infill Building in Historic District
- Size: 6,552 square feet
- Fireplaces: 3
- Bedrooms: 4
- Bathrooms: 4 full, one half-bath
- Rec Room: No
- Assessment: Land: 7,843-square-foot lot is valued at $122,400 ($15.60/sq. ft.); Improvements: $623,000; Total assessed valuation: $645,400.
- Taxes: 2016 tax on unimproved lot, $3,513.38 Paid in Full
- Garbage Collection Route and Schedule: Could not be immediately determined
- Polling Location: Maryland Avenue School, 2418 N. Maryland Ave.
- Aldermanic District: 3 – Nik Kovac
- County Supervisor District: 3 — Sheldon A. Wasserman
- Walk Score: 88 out of 100 “Very Walkable” Most errands can be accomplished on foot. City Average 62 out of 100
- Transit Score: 52 out of 100 “Good Transit” Many nearby public transportation options. City Average 49 out of 100