Trowbridge’s “Enwilde”: When Modern Architecture Literally Helps Saves Lives
I promise you that the headline for this piece is not clickbait! With that said, I have to back up a bit…
When people talk to me about my specialty helping people buy and sell mid-century modern and other modern homes, they almost always say things like “You must love getting to see those amazing homes!” And it’s true. I do. But I always follow up by saying that what I really love about the work that I do is helping my clients make their transactions easier and less stressful. Buying or selling a house can be incredibly taxing, for a number a reasons. It’s very important to me to help take as much stress out of the process for my clients as possible. There are a lot of ways in which I try to do that, but that’s always the goal.
And I think I’m successful at that, which is why I’ve been fortunate enough to have many past clients hire me again, and refer me to new clients.
But anything that I do, as such, pales in comparison to how Dr. Pat Santucci has helped people over the years – and is helping people today. This is because Pat, a career psychiatrist who helped establish the psychiatric care unit at Central DuPage Hospital decades ago (among many other significant accomplishments), has just donated her amazing home at 5N467 Curling Pond Road in Wayne, Illinois, to a charity that, at the very least, helps people live much healthier, safer lives, and at the other end of the spectrum, actually saves lives.
Pat and her husband Ray, who, sadly, I never got to meet, have lived in a house called “Enwilde” for the past 50+ years. The house gets its name from the original owner, Chester Trowbridge, who immortalized the property’s name (as well as his own) on a pair of triangular brick pillars where the driveway for this spectacular modern home meets the street.
Before I go any further, I want to thank Dan Fitzpatrick, Managing Director & Historian for the Schweikher House Preservation Trust, who not only did a ton of research on the home and its connection to Frank Lloyd Wright, but also gathered a tremendous amount of material on the property and its history, and was kind enough to share it with me.
The story of the house starts when Chester Trowbridge, a surgeon of some renown in the suburbs back in the 1950s, hired Frank Lloyd Wright to design a home for him on a piece of property in the west suburbs of Chicago (Wayne wasn’t incorporated until 1958, and Trowbridge hired Wright in early 1955). Unfortunately, Trowbridge and Wright didn’t see eye-to-eye on some aspects of the design or the process, and Wright terminated their relationship via a letter not even two months into the project. It’s interesting to note that Wright did create some preliminary drawings, which you can see here.
This leaves us with a mystery, as we don’t know who ultimately designed the house, but we do know that although it wasn’t Frank Lloyd Wright, it was somebody who appreciated Wright’s Usonian designs enough to design a house in a similar spirit, using triangular modules to create a plan with numerous triangular and hexagonal shapes, and no square rooms.
In addition, the architect followed numerous other concepts that are characteristic of Wright’s teachings and architecture, such as the use of natural materials. There’s almost no drywall in the house: Everything is either glass, brick or cypress. Cypress isn’t a very common wood species in modern homes in this area, so it’s an interesting choice, and it’s used extensively on the walls and ceilings.
Nearly the entire house has New York bluestone floors with in-floor radiant heat, which is one of the most comfortable ways to heat a house. The structure is oriented with the back facing generally southeast, and generous overhangs help to keep the house pleasant in all seasons.
Set on just over 6.2 acres, the property is near the end of a winding cul-de-sac, and offers a fantastic amount of privacy, with a ring of mature trees encircling the property, save for where the driveway provides access from the street.
Low, long and dynamic from every vantage point, the house looks wonderful on its site, the various angles of the plan creating plays of light and shadow during the day in all seasons. Aggregate concrete steps, brick retaining walls and sidewalks all interact in ways that are simultaneously complex and welcoming, with various planting areas surrounding the home and its attached 3-car carport.
Inside, another Wrightian element presents itself immediately, as you enter under purposely low-ish ceilings so that the nearby living spaces with higher ceilings feel that much more dramatic.
In every space in the house you’ll find built-ins that are generally consistent in terms of the wood used for doors and drawer fronts, as well as the hardware used to open and close them. These are terrific details, and it’s so nice to see them throughout the house.
Originally, the house had a large living room space with a massive fireplace, a kitchen, utility & laundry room, a screened porch or covered patio, a powder room, a music room with another large fireplace, where the Trowbridges would host small concerts, three bedrooms (including a primary bedroom with the home’s 3rd fireplace and a long wardrobe hallway) and two more bathrooms. There was perhaps another room beyond the original living room, – one that has since been opened up and incorporated to be one larger space – but unfortunately, no original plans exist.
“My first encounter with the house was when I was just starting my psychiatric residency in 1969,” says Pat. “My professor, Marvin DeHaan, MD, had a party at the house and had invited us. It was winter and there was this tremendous oversized fireplace filling the room with a great pine scent. I wandered around the house and was amazed at the flow of the rooms. It was nothing at all typical. There was a warmth and coziness and yet the house easily held over 70 people at that time without feeling crowded.
“Our reaction at that time was ‘If this house ever goes up for sale, this is exactly what I would love!'”
But it was not to be immediately. In fact, the story of how DeHaan came into possession of the house from Trowbridge is somewhat tragic.
“Trowbridge and my professor were both pilots,” says Pat. “One rainy night, my professor stepped out of Trowbridge’s plane and accidentally walked into the propellers. He survived the injuries and Dr. Trowbridge sold the house to my professor for $10.”
Unfortunately, DeHaan had impulsively sold the house, at some point, to Bob VanKampen without either Mrs. DeHaan or Mrs. VanKampen knowing it. The VanKampens didn’t own the house for too long before they decided to sell it, as they were purchasing nearby Morton Manor (which has since been demolished).
It was at this time in 1971 that Pat and Ray Santucci were able to realize their dream of owning the house that Trowbridge named “Enwilde.”
“We’d been living in Westchester before that. Ray had returned from Vietnam and was doing his residency at Loyola and I was a resident in psychiatry,” explains Pat. “We were looking for an area to set up our medical practice and liked the Fox Valley. Our style had always been simple, clean lines without much clutter, and a private setting. Our lives were pretty busy, so we liked the idea of someplace that was easy to maintain.”
Pat’s comment about their lives being busy is surely an understatement. Her career and achievements are remarkable. In 1971, the same year they purchased the home from the VanKampens, Dr. Santucci began her private practice in the Wheaton / St. Charles area, focusing on women and adolescents.
“The area needed psychiatric services,” says Pat, “so I helped develop the unit at Central DuPage Hospital and developed a special interest in anorexia nervosa, and went on to develop and direct some of the first specialized treatment units for this disorder. I was able to increase awareness of eating disorders and appeared on Good Morning America, WGN, Today, Jane Pauley, Oprah Winfrey and more. I shifted my practice to Naperville and became the Medical Director of Linden Oaks / Edwards Hospital. During this time, I continued my academic career, and as an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Loyola Stritch School of Medicine. I was also a founding member of the Academy for Eating Disorders – an international association which focuses on training professionals and research. I also helped develop and served as volunteer medical director for Our Children’s Homestead – a boys town model for foster children who have been abused.”
And there’s more to her career, but we’ll get to that a bit later. For now I want to talk more about the house. Earlier, I mentioned how Pat and Ray first reacted to the house: That they loved the flow of it, and how it felt cozy even though it was sprawling (another understatement). There’s really no better way to put it.
The house is amazingly comfortable right from when you walk in. Immediately you’re greeted by various pathways to other rooms, brick pillars with woven corners, lighted built-ins with open shelves and bespoke hardware, the warmth of the cypress overhead, and the coolness of the bluestone underfoot. It’s a combination of materials that works beautifully together, and even more so when illuminated by the natural light coming in from the many windows in the house.
Down the hall to the left is the original living room, with its massive brick fireplace. Along the back wall of the room is a solid row of windows along two angles of the room. Opposite those windows is an area with built-ins (next to an original wood accordion door!) and these built-ins are the only ones in the house of a different wood species, as this alcove originally housed a built-in bench, but as Pat explained it to me, they had other needs in that room in more recent years. Overheard, that beautiful cypress ceiling is illuminated by valance lighting around the perimeter on a couple of sides – another beautiful touch that fits well with the architectural style of the home.
Through the original living room is where you’ll find the laundry and utility room, as well as the powder room and a small vestibule that leads outside toward the carport. Very much in the style of Frank Lloyd Wright here, too, the carport incorporates the same series of angles as the rest of the house, and each by is separated from the next by a brick pillar, with the back and side walls of the carport featuring plentiful exterior storage.
Go around the corner from the living room, though, and you’ll find yourself in what was once a screened porch or covered patio. Later, this space was converted to indoor space (it’s the only part of the house that doesn’t have in-floor radiant heat since it was originally more of an outdoor space, so there are baseboard heaters here). Large windows and sliders provide wonderful views of the property behind the house, and an original built-in grill is still in one corner of this space. And more built-ins, of course!
Around the corner from this sun room is the kitchen. Like most rooms in the house, it follows more than one angle. At the near end is a large pantry – the only space that’s drywalled instead of clad with cypress. Then the kitchen angles toward the back of the house and off to the right, where it opens up more toward the music room.
The wood screens here offer separation between the spaces without cutting off the light from the kitchen into the music room. It’s this space, currently set up as a dining room, where the Trowbridges would have small, intimate concerts and recitals. Here again is a fireplace on a fairly large scale. And this room, which originally served as a sort of centerpiece to the house, has higher ceilings, with clerestory windows around the perimeter of the raised area allowing light to wash the ceiling and bathe the music room (and surrounding spaces) in additional natural light.
From this point to the other end of the house, things are quite different than when the Santuccis purchased the home.
“When we first purchased the house, there were trees growing through the openings in the eaves in various places,” says Pat. “In addition, the property was much more ‘wild’ with trees growing all around. Ray was concerned about trees falling onto the house, so we removed the trees that were growing through the eaves, and Ray had many of the trees cut back, which also had the benefit of increasing how much lawn we had so that the kids could play football and other things in the yard.
“Around 1977 or so, we had an extensive addition put onto the house. We consulted with the Wright Foundation since, at the time, we thought Wright may have designed the house, and we wanted to make sure that we honored the original architecture with respect to the layout of the new spaces, the materials, and so on. We added a large family room and a new primary bedroom and bath. We also expanded the patio and added the pool. The barn we added to house our tractors, and it has an art studio on the 2nd floor.”
The new living room is a truly wonderful space, with multiple sets of sliders offering beautiful views to the back yard, plus a wet bar and lots of built-ins. Like the other new spaces, the new living room uses the same materials and hardware as the original house, in order to help it blend seamlessly.
These changes that were made in the late ’70s added significantly to the home’s size, which now comprises over 4,400 square feet (not including the barn, of course), and took it from a 3 bedroom, 2 1/2 bath house to 4 bedrooms and 3 1/2 baths. For the addition, Pat & Ray worked with Al Eichstaedt, an architect based in the northwest suburbs who designed a number of modern homes in the area. Eichstaedt did a wonderful job matching the overall geometry, look, feel and materials of the original home.
It’s interesting that the barn was only added by the Santucci’s, as Mrs. Trowbridge was an equestrian – Wayne has an abundance of horse-riding trails and is a popular equestrian area.
The new Primary Suite is all the way at the end of the house, and is a generously sized room with sliders looking out to the back yard, more large windows, three closets, built ins and a large en suite bathroom with a great walk-in shower. It’s a calming retreat, especially considering the location and how the lot is surrounded by trees. It’s also the only bedroom that faces the back yard, enhancing the privacy aspect.
Around the corner from the Primary Suite is the original master bedroom. Here, you’ll enjoy the home’s third fireplace, along with more built-ins, and a large bank of windows that angle onto two walls. If you head out the other door from this bedroom, you enter into a long wardrobe hallway designed to serve this bedroom. In it, you’ll find numerous closets, banks of built-in drawers & cabinets, and a sink with mirrors on multiple sides.
There’s also access here to the next full bathroom, which was originally more of a “jack & jill” style bathroom connecting this bedroom to the next one, with each side having its own sink and toilet, and connected in the middle by a shower. About 10 years ago, Pat and Ray remodeled the kitchen and bathrooms, and one of the things they did here was reconfigure the bathroom to have a large walk-in shower that could be used by either bedroom.
The next bedroom over is currently set up as an office, with the bed originally oriented along the wall where the desk is today. The built-in in the corner was the “headboard” for this bed.
Next door is the fourth and final bedroom of the house. Like the others, it is not square and has built-ins in various places. The third and final full bathroom can be accessed from this bedroom, or from the hallway outside of the bedroom.
The home is impressive from nearly every vantage point, both inside and out. In this way, it’s also much like homes designed by Wright, who felt that a home should look good from any angle. As if the house isn’t sprawling enough, accentuating the low, long Usonian nature of the design, it feels even more so when you include the continuing roof over the 3-car carport.
And the property that the house sits on is also beautiful, surrounded by mature trees, with a creek behind the tree line, and privacy both from Curling Pond Road (thanks to a winding driveway) and from the neighborhood and the greater area.
While Pat’s professional career was in medicine, she’s also an artist, so the studio on the 2nd floor of the barn has served as a great place for her to paint. “I’ve shown at one of the galleries in Naples, Florida,” says Pat,” and I have some of my work in Sanibel.”
Walking around the house on the outside reveals so much more of the home’s character, including the stone patio, the wide, shallow steps that connect the patio with the pool deck, and the built-in planter areas that tie the two levels of hardscape together. Similarly, near the front entryway, you’ll find aggregate steps and brick retaining walls that define planted areas that all welcome you to this amazing home.
“It’s so hard to decide what I’ve loved most about the house,” says Pat. “I think we’ve spent most of our time in the big living room, since it looks out to the property. In the morning, the deer come to visit and it’s really just serene. During the winter, we would gather in the back family room with that great wood burning fireplace. I have really fond memories of Christmas, singing around the piano in the music room, which we now have set up as a dining area.”
But of course, the house itself is only half of the story here. In fact, when I first met Pat, I didn’t realize that she was planning to donate the house to ANAD, the charity that she’s worked with for decades.
“There was a nurse named Vivian Meehan, whose daughter had been diagnosed with anorexia back in the mid 1970s,” explains Pat. “There was little known about the illness at that point. Trying to gather some information, Vivian put an ad in the paper in Highland Park, asking anyone who had this problem to contact her. A women’s magazine picked up on the topic and published an article about it. After that, thousands of letters poured into her living room, and she started the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) to offer free support services to others suffering from eating disorders.
“So it made a lot of sense when I learned of ANAD. I started working with the group in 1977, and have been involved ever since,” says Pat. “It’s such a wonderful organization. All services are free and include a helpline, free support groups for patients and families, a mentorship program, and so much more. I serve as their V.P. and Medical Director, and write the training program and help supervise the volunteers.”
When I first met Pat, I thought a few things immediately: She’s such a warm, friendly person,. She’s had an amazing and impressive career, and she’s given so much to so many people. When she told me about ANAD and what she planned to do, I thought it was just incredible. And I’m not the only one.
“It was very exciting and surprising that Dr. Pat would donate her beautiful home to us!” says Maria Rago, ANAD’s President. “ANAD has a lot of beautiful things that we’d like to do with our future, and we can only do it if we can afford it. Having Dr. Pat give this special gift makes it possible for us to do some of the things we’ve been hoping for. She’s put countless hours of time and a lot of WORK into our group! And now she’s giving us this beautiful gift. In so many ways, Dr. Pat is ANAD’s gift! Her advice, programs and hard work – and of course donations – have helped us be where we are today.”
ANAD doesn’t only aim to help people with anorexia, but other eating and body image disorders as well.
“The majority of cases are with people who are 15-25 years old,” says Pat, “but because the illness is chronic, we see cases all the way into their 80s.”
“Eating disorders are among the deadliest mental illnesses, because they can kill people, even when they’re young,” adds Maria. “They make people feel like giving up sometimes, because they’re so hard to overcome, and it often takes a long time, which requires a lot of hope and patience. Families need to understand this and people suffering from eating disorders really do need the support to keep trying, to get the best information, and to have the most cutting-edge ideas brought to them to help them keep going.”
Among some of the programs that ANAD hopes to expand or implement with the proceeds from the sale of the house are growing their mentorship program, where they match people with eating disorders with someone who has recovered; The hotline that people can call when they need information or help when they feel stuck or confused on what to do next; An A/I-based 24/7 chatbot that people can use to help them improve their body image; Expansion of their training program for mentors, support group leaders and hotline volunteers, and more.
Something that’s amazing about the house at 5N467 Curling Pond Road – other than Pat’s donation of the house to ANAD and the home’s beautiful architecture and setting, of course – is that even though Pat and Ray Santucci were the home’s fourth owners, this is actually the first time the home has ever been offered for sale publicly. Each time it changed hands in the past, it was done privately.
As such, a fortunate new owner will not only have the pleasure of living in such a remarkable house, and being the new stewards of this fantastic property, but they’ll have the knowledge that their purchase of the home is helping so many people cope with, and hopefully recover from, such serious illnesses.
Use the thumbnails below to view the full gallery.