The house was once home to 14-year-old Bobby Franks, the victim in the high-profile kidnapping and murder committed by Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb in the 1920s. The two teenage criminals were attempting to commit the perfect crime when they lured Franks into a car on his way home from school, killed him and then attempted to procure a ransom from his wealthy parents.
This landmark home is steeped with history and intrigue due to the notoriety of the Leopold and Loeb trial. The two young criminals, who were residents of the Kenwood neighborhood and themselves the children of wealthy families, were defending by legendary lawyer Clarence Darrow, who had them plead guilty in order to avoid the death penalty.
The trial was a media spectacle, drawing the spotlight to a neighborhood filled with stately mansions and elite residents. After they were convicted, Loeb was the victim of a prison murder, while Leopold was released on parole after 33 years. He moved to Puerto Rico.
The historic home at 5052 S. Ellis will undergo complete renovation of approximately 10,000 square feet, including the adjacent coach house and garage. The boarded-up mansion has been in a state of disrepair for the last decade, with challenging conditions such as a leaking roof, broken windows and water pipes.
“We are looking forward to restoring this landmark home and to tackling this renovation project that has many levels of complexities,” said Robert Berg, President of Foster Design Build, the firm overseeing the work.
Berg says the most significant challenge with this renovation project will be restoring all of the individual components of the home so it appears as it was 100 years ago: “As was the case with our project next door to President Obama’s, we are again working on the details of this new project with the neighborhood group in Kenwood and the City of Chicago’s Department of Landmarks and Preservation.”