Hemingway home sold to Oak Park couple; restoration planned
By FELICIA DECHTER Contributor June 12, 2012 11:36AM
Ernest Hemingway's boyhood home in Oak Park is for sale, listing at $525,000.
Updated: July 15, 2012 2:48PM
A piece of local history was sold today with the closing of Ernest Hemingway’s boyhood home in Oak Park.
The 4,100-square-foot house at 600 N. Kenilworth was sold by the Ernest Hemingway Foundation to an Oak Park family, Kurt and Mary Jane Neumann, for $525,000.
“The house has great bones, and our goal is uncover many of its original features,” said Mary Jane Neumann. “We plan to use the Hemingway’s floor plans as a guide to the restoration.
“The first step is to reopen the master stairway between the first and second floors and then repair the exterior. Overall, we see this as a multi-year project – and a ‘labor of love.’”
“I have sold many fantastic homes, EE Roberts, Spencer, ‘Frankies’ (Frank Lloyd Wright), but in the past 13 years this has been one of the most interesting and rewarding,” said Steve Scheuring, the selling agent with the Oak Park-based Baird & Warner.
The home garnered international attention after news that it was on the market went viral on Feb. 21. By March 8, it was under contract for its asking price, Scheuring said. The showing schedule became so intense that Scheuring had to create mandated time slots which were, “booked solid and then some.” He had inquiries from as far away as Japan and even had a couple fly in from Canada to take a look.
“It was during this little more than two-week period in between that things were really insane,” said Scheuring. “(I’ve) never seen anything like it.
“One word describes this experience,” said Scheuring. “Cool.”
There was a total of three offers, Scheuring said, but in the end, the contract accepted by the foundation was the strongest in more ways than just price.
“I can tell the new owner and the foundation are going to have a very good relationship,” said Scheuring. “The foundation ever mindful of their privacy and ownership, and the new owner with an elevated understanding of what they have.”
John Berry, chairman of the Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park, said the Neumanns intend to live in the house, which has been divided into three apartments since the 1930s.
They new owners intend to restore it to its 1906 glory as a single-family home and open it to the public occasionally for viewing and research purposes.
The Neumanns also are looking forward to raising their two young sons there.
“As a young man, I was influenced by Hemingway’s writing and sense of adventure. Like Hemingway, I grew up spending summers in northern Michigan and travelled extensively as a young adult,” said Kurt Neumann, a business lawyer in downtown Chicago. “I am thrilled with the idea of raising our sons in a home with such a sense of history.”
Mary Jane Neumann, a Chinese medical practitioner, educator and entrepreneur, owns Ginkgo Acupuncture in the Oak Park Arts District on Harrison Street, and she likes the link to Hemingway’s father’s medical practice that was based in the home, Berry said.
“All in all, a satisfactory outcome from the foundation’s perspective,” said Berry, who has stayed in touch with the Hemingway family and even e-mailed with Ernest Hemingway’s famous granddaughter, Mariel, a few times.
“The family’s plan to share the house with the community pleases the foundation’s board very much. It promises to be a fine collaboration,” Berry said.