Oscar Mayer Mansion in Illinois Is Reborn

A century-old abandoned mansion covered in vines with a hole in its roof would send most potential home buyers scurrying as far away as possible. But real estate attorney Scott Hargadon had a different reaction when he and his business partner walked into this Evanston, IL, property.

Known as the Oscar Mayer mansion -- which was purchased in 1927 by the son of the founder of the meat processing company -- the house had seen better days.

"This house had less curb appeal than anything I had ever seen," recalls Hargadon of the first time he saw it in 2015. But inside, he was blown away when he saw that the original woodwork, hardwood floors, and even the elaborate light fixtures were all still in place. It was "a house that was literally frozen in time. No one had made bad improvements we would have to rip out," he says.

Hargadon and his business partner, a rehabber, bought the 7,401-square-foot home in June 2015, then started rehabbing it. They put the home on the market May, listing it as a six-bedroom, 4.5-bathroom home for $2.95 million.

"This house, as presented, will in effect be a brand-new 2016 house inside the shell of a 1901 house," Hargadon says. Renovations are scheduled to be completed in August.

The home's infrastructure -- plumbing, electrical, roof -- has been completely replaced and modernized. Air conditioning was added. A 1915 addition that was damaging the home's foundation was torn down, with the approval of local authorities (the home sits in a city historic district only a few blocks from Lake Michigan). The foundation was fixed, and art glass windows were repaired. A driveway on the side of the house is being removed to increase yard space.

A second-floor master suite was created by reconfiguring what had been several smaller rooms. The suite now includes a dressing room and opens to a private deck. A chef's kitchen was created on the first floor and features high-end appliances from Sub-Zero, La Cornue, and Bosch. A first-floor music room sits in the dramatic turret portion of the house.

The home now has four bedrooms on the second floor. There's also a library, two bedrooms, and a bathroom on the third floor, where the home's original ballroom and billiard room have also been restored.

"The architecture of the home makes this a unique offering" for the area, explains listing agent Susan Ani. Known as the Chateau style, or Chateauesque, it was in vogue mainly in the Northeast at the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The home was originally built for a local industrialist but was bought by Oscar G. Mayer, son of the founder of the meat processing company that bore his name, in 1927 and remained in the family until 1967, Ani recounts.

Mayer would likely feel right at home in his redone mansion.