Construction of a new residential tower at the site seems unlikely, as a 1990s plan for a 41-story tower behind the facades of the group’s two iconic mansions at 1516 and 1524 N. Lake Shore Drive sparked a legal battle of several years.
The limestone mansion at 1516 N. Lake Shore first marketed in September 2015 for $ 17 million. The asking price had fallen to $ 5.75 million by the end of May, when the listing agent called for “best deals by June 14”.
Although formerly residential, the mansions of 1516 and 1524 housed the International College of Surgeons and the associated International Museum of Surgical Sciences for seven decades. In the early 1950s, Chicago surgeon Max Thorek purchased the pair of buildings and moved the International College of Surgeons to Geneva, Switzerland.
In 2015, an executive from the Surgeons’ Group said five employees worked in Building 1516 N. Lake Shore, up from 15 in the 1980s.
Built in 1914, the 12,000 square foot is one of seven mansions that remain from the early 20th century origins of North Lake Shore Drive as a pleasure route lined with lavish homes. It was designed by renowned New York architecture firm McKim Mead & White for Edward Tyler Blair and Ruby McCormick Blair. He was the son of one of Chicago’s first ironmongers and she was the niece of Cyrus McCormick, the inventor of the mechanical mower. Their son William founded what is now Chicago-based financial services firm William Blair.
Many features of the original design are intact, including large formal halls the size of a living room, elaborate plaster ceilings, carved stone fireplaces, and interior woodwork. There are nine fireplaces, original marble or herringbone wood floors, 16 foot ceilings on the second floor – which is the main ground floor, above the reception rooms and service areas. downstairs – and a two-story shed that contains an additional 2,400 square feet.
Any new use would likely result in a multi-million dollar renovation. The kitchen is still the original small room designed for servants’ use, and the remaining bathrooms have been reduced to wet rooms without a shower or tub. The building also needs a new roof. In 2015, Nick Rebel, executive director of the US section of the surgeon group, said “we couldn’t afford to maintain (the structure) the way it should be.”
Rebel declined to comment for this story.
In 2017, the group changed the offer to include the two mansions, 1516 and 1524, but later relented and offered only 1516.
Latsko said in a text message that “when they list 1524 I will definitely be more aggressive.”