Winnetka, News

Iconic Winnetka home may face wrecking ball

Demolition permit of 112-year-old Spanish revival currently under review

One of Winnetka’s most unique and historic homes is at risk of ruin.

The new owners of 445 Sheridan Road, commonly called the Clement Stone Mansion, are seeking to demolish the renowned Spanish revival and replace it with a French-styled home, according to Village of Winnetka documents.

The lakefront mansion, which has had just five owners since its construction in 1912, sold for $12.25 million on Aug. 31, 2023. The owners, Shiraz and Vijay Kotte, submitted a demolition permit a few weeks later, on Oct. 5, 2023.

The permit was in front of the Village’s Landmark Preservation Commission on Feb. 5, when commissioners approved a historical architecture impact study. The study, which is in development, will be presented at a future and yet to be determined LPC meeting.

According to the minutes from the Feb. 5 session, Vijay Kotte — the CEO of health-insurance broker GoHealth — told the commission that the home’s design did not meet the owners’ desires and renovating the home presented too many challenges, including concerns about the foundation and the cost of significant improvements.

Kotte said the family wants to remain in Winnetka, but inventory is limited, especially on the lakefront, and they’d like to build a new, French-styled home that would complement the neighborhood.

Aerial view of the Clement Stone Mansion at 445 Sheridan Road.

Commissioners informed Kotte of the group’s mission to protect historical properties and urge renovation over demolition. They also expressed concern about the number of similar homes in the area and asked Kotte to elaborate on the state of the home before voting unanimously to require a historical architecture impact study.

The commission will use the study to determine if the home is significant enough to issue a 270-day delay (from the Feb. 5 meeting).

Leading up to the LPC meeting, Winnetka Historical Society curator Dr. Meagan McChesney provided preliminary research on the home, concluding that, “Due to its style and notable homeowners, 445 Sheridan is certainly one of the best-known historic properties in Winnetka and along Sheridan Road. While it has been renovated several times throughout its history, it maintains both historical and architectural significance.”

Historical society Executive Director Mary Trieschmann told The Record about the Clement Stone Mansion, “we believe in preservation and this is a house that really should be preserved.” 

About the home

Historical image of the home, which was built in 1912.

According to the Winnetka Historical Society review, a stucco structure of Spanish revival design, the home at 445 Sheridan Road was constructed in 1912 by real-estate investor Lena P. Gilmore, who had owned the land since 1910.

A number of notable Winnetkans owned the home through the years, including Albert Pick (1919-1931), a hotel and restaurant magnate; James G. McMillan (1931-1966), president of the Wanter Company, maker of Ovaltine; and William Clement Stone (1966-2005), a businessman turned author and magazine publisher who may have coined the phrase “positive mental attitude.”

The main home is three stories at more than 6,000 square feet and backs up to a private 130-foot beachfront just steps from Cherry Street Beach. The property also includes a two-story pool house connected to a large, front-yard swimming pool and sits on more than 2 acres of land. Under the original construction, the home featured 14 total rooms, but it has been renovated several times over the years, including a significant project in 2007.

The rear of the home backs up to Lake Michigan and is adjacent to Cherry Street Beach.

The home was most recently on the market in 2022, selling the following year for $12.25 million, and the real-estate entry from AtProperties lists the home as 6,174 square feet with five bedrooms and seven bathrooms. The main home has elevator access to all four levels, as well as a five fireplaces, a sauna, speakeasy-style lounge, historic millwork, a solarium and plenty more.

The pool house located between the main home and Sheridan Road features two bedrooms, two baths and an elevator.

Teardown regulations in Winnetka

The Winnetka City Council confronted the issue of home demolitions in 2021 in the wake of what several Winnetka officials described as a “teardown issue” in the village. At the time, officials noted a string of historically significant properties in the village that were either demolished or that needed grassroots preservation measures.

Trustees approved an ordinance in March 2021 that most notably allows a demolition delay period of up to 270 days for historic homes and an incentive to exceed by 20 percent the legal size of any single-family property that is found to have historical or architectural significance.

The previous delay was 60 days.

The newer policy still involves a Landmark Preservation Commission review, and the commission determines — based on the historical architectural impact study — whether to require the nine-month-delay in the demolition process in an effort to save the building.

After the delay, however, the owners can still decide move ahead with demolition.

The amended ordinance offers the applicant an opportunity to appeal to the Village Council if it disagrees with the commission’s determination.

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joe coughlin
Joe Coughlin

Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319

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