Is the Schweppes mansion America’s most haunting real estate?

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  • 4c513 a Is the Schweppes mansion Americas most haunting real estate?


Ominous and beautiful bird’s eye view. All photos: Estately.com

Image 1 of 18 – 405 N Mayflower: haunting Schweppes home

Ominous and beautiful bird’s eye view. All photos: Estately.com

Ominous and beautiful bird’s eye view. All photos: Estately.com

Closer up. All photos: Estately.com

Image 2 of 18 – 405 N Mayflower: haunting Schweppes home

Closer up. All photos: Estately.com

Closer up. All photos: Estately.com

Courtyard. All photos: Estately.com

Image 3 of 18 – 405 N Mayflower: haunting Schweppes home

Courtyard. All photos: Estately.com

Courtyard. All photos: Estately.com

Entry. All photos: Estately.com

Image 4 of 18 – 405 N Mayflower: haunting Schweppes home

Entry. All photos: Estately.com

Entry. All photos: Estately.com

Ceiling and floor detail. All photos: Estately.com

Image 5 of 18 – 405 N Mayflower: haunting Schweppes home

Ceiling and floor detail. All photos: Estately.com

Ceiling and floor detail. All photos: Estately.com

A living room with fire warming no one. All photos: Estately.com

Image 6 of 18 – 405 N Mayflower: haunting Schweppes home

A living room with fire warming no one. All photos: Estately.com

A living room with fire warming no one. All photos: Estately.com

Another view. All photos: Estately.com

Image 7 of 18 – 405 N Mayflower: haunting Schweppes home

Another view. All photos: Estately.com

Another view. All photos: Estately.com

Sitting room view. All photos: Estately.com

Image 8 of 18 – 405 N Mayflower: haunting Schweppes home

Sitting room view. All photos: Estately.com

Sitting room view. All photos: Estately.com

Doorway detail and mood lighting. All photos: Estately.com

Image 9 of 18 – 405 N Mayflower: haunting Schweppes home

Doorway detail and mood lighting. All photos: Estately.com

Doorway detail and mood lighting. All photos: Estately.com

More fireplaces. All photos: Estately.com

Image 10 of 18 – 405 N Mayflower: haunting Schweppes home

More fireplaces. All photos: Estately.com

More fireplaces. All photos: Estately.com

Sunroom/conservatory. All photos: Estately.com

Image 11 of 18 – 405 N Mayflower: haunting Schweppes home

Sunroom/conservatory. All photos: Estately.com

Sunroom/conservatory. All photos: Estately.com

Huge windows and tile detail. All photos: Estately.com

Image 12 of 18 – 405 N Mayflower: haunting Schweppes home

Huge windows and tile detail. All photos: Estately.com

Huge windows and tile detail. All photos: Estately.com

Formal dining room (watch yourself while you are eating). All photos: Estately.com

Image 13 of 18 – 405 N Mayflower: haunting Schweppes home

Formal dining room (watch yourself while you are eating). All photos: Estately.com

Formal dining room (watch yourself while you are eating). All photos:…Estately.com

More haunting light. All photos: Estately.com

Image 14 of 18 – 405 N Mayflower: haunting Schweppes home

More haunting light. All photos: Estately.com

More haunting light. All photos: Estately.com

Huge, empty kitchen. All photos: Estately.com

Image 15 of 18 – 405 N Mayflower: haunting Schweppes home

Huge, empty kitchen. All photos: Estately.com

Huge, empty kitchen. All photos: Estately.com

Shining-esque hall shows wood panel detail. All photos: Estately.com

Image 16 of 18 – 405 N Mayflower: haunting Schweppes home

Shining-esque hall shows wood panel detail. All photos: Estately.com

Shining-esque hall shows wood panel detail. All photos: Estately.com

Master. All photos: Estately.com

Image 17 of 18 – 405 N Mayflower: haunting Schweppes home

Master. All photos: Estately.com

Master. All photos: Estately.com

Is that the always clean window? All photos: Estately.com

Image 18 of 18 – 405 N Mayflower: haunting Schweppes home

Is that the always clean window? All photos: Estately.com

Is that the always clean window? All photos: Estately.com

If we’re looking for a particularly gothic, haunting Halloween-themed piece of real estate, The Schweppe Mansion has everything going for it. History, fame, wealth, death, suicide, ghosts and a long, lonely search for a buyer despite numerous dramatic price cuts.

The property itself, considered one of Chicago’s most historically important, is impressive with or without any haunting attached.  It sprawls over roughly five acres, an elaborate estate of forested, lakefront land crowned with a 25,000 square foot mansion. Inside, the mansion offers a dizzying 28 rooms to explore, including at least 10 bedrooms and more than 11 baths, a formal dining room with beveled paneling, a stately library and a cavernous kitchen.  Despite restoration in the 1980s (after being abandoned for almost 50 years), today the home appears very much original, as if the Schweppe family has only stepped out for a sail on Lake Michigan.

But history tells us otherwise.

Wealth and fame

In 1917 this home was bequeathed to Laura Shedd by her parents. Her father was John G. Shedd, whose story of starting at Marshall Field’s as a stock clerk and rising to the role of company president is the epitome of the American Dream. Under his guidance, Marshall Field’s enjoyed its heyday, becoming “the largest store in Chicago and the largest wholesale and dry goods company in the world.” The mansion was a gift for Laura’s wedding to Charles Schweppe, a name we might recognize from bars, refrigerators and store shelves all over the world.

Tragic history

Known as Mayflower Place, the estate attracted the world’s elite. Chicago Magazine reports the Schweppes entertained royalty at least twice. “Legend says that Laura Shedd Schweppe hosted a crown prince and princess of Sweden, who danced on the eastern terrace. With Wallis Simpson, for whom he abdicated the British throne in 1936, Edward, Duke of Windsor slept in a bedroom on the western end of the home’s second floor.”

With such illustrious beginnings, we might expect a long and happy history in this home, but in truth,  history of Schweppe family life here is neither. Inside its walls Laura Schweppe died of a heart attack in 1937. Her death was the first of worse to come: In 1941, writes The Chicago Psychic Examiner,

“Servants entered Charles Schweppe’s bedroom and found him dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Charles Schweppe was only 60 years old. The only clue left by Charles as to why he took his own life was a note found on his dresser that simply read, “I’ve been awake all night. It’s terrible.”

Grief or greed?

Though the obvious cause of his suicide would be devastation over losing his wife, other theories exist. Clinical depression? Physical illness? Maybe a brain tumor? Chronic insomnia? Some historians speculate it boils down to greed: When Laura Schweppe passed, she left the bulk of her $10 million fortune to her children; Charles only received $200,000. “Could it be that Charles was so disappointed with his inheritance … that he believed death was the only way to escape his pain?” wonders Annie Walker of the Chicago Examiner.  Of course, it could be that he had plenty of his own money and she only sought to safeguard her children. Whatever his reasons for killing himself, Charles Schweppe took them with him to his grave.

Period of decay

The death of Charles Schweppe ended his family’s tenure in Mayflower House. No one lived in the estate for 46 years thereafter — at least no mortal.  “Locals insisted it was haunted and buyers were scarce,” writes Time Out Chicago.” Reports that Laura and Charles’ ghosts haunted the mansion’s bedrooms were common enough to qualify as bona fide Chicago paranormal lore.  Adding to legend, “Ghostly servants were also rumored to roam the halls of the majestic Tudor,” says the Examiner.

The Lakeforest College Library archives include this entry: “At the Preservation Foundation holiday reception there on Sunday, December 4, 2011, a credible witness observed that he and small group had indeed seen a ghost.”  The Orlando Sentinel reports that “Although the heirs to the estate have kept silent on their reasons for holding onto the estate without occupying it, folklore has it that Schweppe ordered them to leave the home empty for 45 years after his death, in case he decided to return as resident reincarnate.”

Whoever is haunting the master bedroom, s/he is doing so tidily: Reportedly, one window there remained free of cobwebs and dust, despite almost five decades of abandonment.

New life

In the late 1980s, Donna and Howard Hoeper finally purchased the estate for $5.5 million, regardless of haunts. At the time, the Sentinel reported that “The Hoeper family takes the folklore with more than a grain of ghoulish good humor. Noting that the mansion has 22,000 square feet of living space, 20 bedrooms and 18 bathrooms, Hoeper said ‘If there is a spirit in the house, there is enough room for all of us.’”

The couple planned for an elaborate restoration, but divorced before finishing, leaving the mansion in foreclosure by 2009. Since then, the home has been listed and de-listed multiple times, as seen on Estately property history for the listing. In its first attempt on the market, it listed for $18 million. Later, it listed at $15 million. Today, it’s been on the market over 250 days, drastically reduced to $9.950 million.

Take a tour  through the gallery above, or even live via YouTube … if you dare

Anna Marie Erwert writes from both the renter and new buyer perspective, having (finally) achieved both statuses. She focuses on national real estate trends, specializing in the San Francisco Bay Area and Pacific Northwest. Follow Anna on Twitter: @AnnaMarieErwert

Article source: http://blog.sfgate.com/ontheblock/2015/10/29/is-the-schweppes-mansion-americas-most-haunting-real-estate/

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