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1430 W. Berwyn

October 4, 2010

1430 W. Berwyn

The greystone home at 1430 W. Berwyn is a source of fascination for those whom have stumbled upon it and admired the caryatids and other countless architectural artifacts that decorate the house and surrounding courtyard. However, the eclectic ornament 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 on this building is no easy task – 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 (Pfeiffer later ended up moving to Miami where he designed buildings in the Art Deco style), and the builder was John P. Flick. With its heavily rusticated limestone façade and gothic embellishments, it’s an interesting mix of Gothic and Romanesque styles. Its defining caryatids were a later addition added 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.

CNS 2010. For more photos visit BLUEPRINT's facebook page

It’s 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 covered in lavish décor reminiscent of the 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, he bought the home in much of its present state. He claims that the unlikely ornate gold-painted moldings that decorate the walls and turret were already there when he moved in, as were many of architectural artifacts filling the courtyard. He believes that some of the most impressive furnishings even date back to the original owners. Obviously, this seems doubtful – but it’s clear that the eccentricities of the home were not the work of Mr. Flores alone. 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.

Mrs. (left) and Mr. Christiansen

One important mystery of the home has been solved: what the original owners, Mr. And Mrs. C. Christiansen, looked like. Their busts, dressed in military costumes Mr. Flores found in one of his closets, 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 descendents of the original owners. One of them still had the Christiansen busts buried in his basement and gave them to Mr. Flores to return them to their rightful home.

MAP IT

Ronald Flores owns and manages a number of properties across Chicago. Today he mostly lives in Elgin. And if the rumors are true, his house there is 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!

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. October 4, 2010 2:37 pm

    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

    • October 4, 2010 2:46 pm

      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?

  2. Marion permalink
    October 4, 2010 2:41 pm

    It’s like something out of an Alfred Hitchcock episode.

  3. Cayla permalink
    October 4, 2010 3:22 pm

    So happy to see more photos! What a treat!

  4. Tom Stepson permalink
    October 4, 2010 3:51 pm

    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.

  5. Nye S. permalink
    October 4, 2010 4:52 pm

    That would explain it. The house and furnishings are certainly on steroids as
    Caroline makes pretty clear.

  6. October 5, 2010 8:03 am

    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…

  7. October 5, 2010 9:28 am

    There is a discussion brewing on the Forgotten Chicago forum about this topic > http://forgottenchicago.com/forum/5/3125/1430_w__berwyn_caryatids

  8. elizabeth permalink
    October 5, 2010 1:37 pm

    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!

  9. Claire permalink
    October 7, 2010 12:17 pm

    thanks for this! I always wonder about this house. I also wonder about the unoccupied animal cages in the side-yard there

    • October 7, 2010 2:53 pm

      I didn’t notice the animal cages. They’re every bit as much of a mystery as everything else I am sure.

  10. Kelly permalink
    October 8, 2010 1:06 pm

    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!

  11. Jim permalink
    October 9, 2010 11:18 am

    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.

  12. M.Pilsner permalink
    December 7, 2010 10:30 pm

    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

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