Buy the Ferris Bueller house!
A piece of Chicago film history could be yours-for $1.65 million.
It’s the biggest oh-shit moment in a movie filled with them: Cameron’s dad’s cherished red 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California smashes through a plate-glass window and plunges dramatically into the woodsy ravine. Cameron and Ferris look on in horror and disbelief. The truants of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off realize there’s no way to weasel out of this one.
“This is exactly where the car went out,” real-estate agent Meladee Hughes said last week during a tour of 370 Beech Street in Highland Park. It was eight in the morning, yet Hughes, an elegant older woman in a black dress, looked as if she were headed to a North Shore dinner party. She touched the specific pane of glass. “The film crew removed the original window with the help of the architect and put in a fake window for the stunt,” noted Hughes (no relation to writer-director John Hughes). “When the car landed, they couldn’t have it explode, otherwise it would’ve damaged the ravine. They used smoke bombs instead.”
For more than a year, Hughes has been trying to find a buyer for the 4,000-square-foot glass-and-steel house as well as the detached 1,300-square-foot pavilion in back that stands on pylons over the ravine. The showroom-like pavilion doubled as the garage and Ferris’s best friend Cameron’s depressingly lit bedroom in the 1986 film.
“But you know,” Hughes said, “it’s famous for reasons other than Ferris Bueller.” Designed in 1953 by notable architect A. James Speyer—Mies van der Rohe’s first U.S. protégé—the exquisitely simple, rectilinear home features large stretches of free-flowing space. The address is formally known as the Ben Rose House, after its only owner. Rose, a textile artist, died in 2004, and his wife, Francis, passed in ’08. (Their two middle-aged sons decided to sell.) Twenty years after the house was built, architect David Haid designed the pavilion so the Roses could display their collection of European race cars. “It’d make a great little guest house,” Hughes said, showing off the pavilion’s midcentury-modern kitchen and bathroom.
In July, Hughes had a Ferris-like oh-shit moment of her own. Heavy rains caused the house’s roof to leak, despite having been replaced just months before. “I was just hysterical,” said Hughes, admitting she’s grown to love the house. The showy residence was already proving a tough sell; the Roses’ sons lowered the sale price from $2.3 million to $1.8 million in February and then to the current $1.65 million in August. “If it were any other market,” she said, “it would’ve been gone.”
But Hughes has had no problem finding people who want to make an appointment to view the house. “I’ve taken a lot of non-serious people around,” she said. “A lot of students have been through here—film students, architectural students, photography students. I had—who’s that madman radio guy? Oh, Mancow! He brought his wife and two children. But the people who have been most seriously interested have been architects who appreciate what the house is.”
With the Roses’ sons’ approval, she’s also opened up the pavilion to events for car organizations (a local Ferrari club, naturally) and the Chicago Bauhaus and Beyond group. Over the summer, Chicagoland Jewish High School held a Ferris Bueller–themed fund-raiser at the pavilion and the home next door. “When you rang the neighbor’s bell,” Hughes said, “it answered, ‘Bueller!’”
After finishing the pavilion tour, Hughes, wearing a pair of perilously high black heels, crept up the gravel path back to the house to wait for an insurance rep who would inspect the roof and assess the damage. “Come inside and sit on this couch and see if you don’t feel something,” she said, plopping down on a low-slung sofa in the middle of the spacious living room. Just then, a deer trotting by in the woods stopped near the pavilion. “Oh, my goodness!” she said. “This is really an enchanted house.”