A three-bedroom, 3,591-square-foot contemporary-style house on 18 acres in an unincorporated area southeast of Wheaton sold on May 19 to the Lisle-based Morton Arboretum for $5.1 million.
The deal for the property, which is on Leask Lane, represents the arboretum’s first new land purchase in decades, and it’s a move that arboretum officials found logical, as the land is bordered on three sides by the arboretum. The now-gated estate extends, fingerlike, more than 2,200 feet east from Leask Lane.
The sellers are the heirs of developer Leland Stahelin, who died in 2018 at age 92. Stahelin’s heirs in June 2021 listed the property for $6 million, and they cut their asking price in November to $5.8 million. They struck a deal with the arboretum in February.
The property once nearly came into public ownership. In 2001, the DuPage County Forest Preserve District voted to condemn and acquire the property after Stahelin announced plans to develop the land with 11 new homes. Stahelin fought the district in court and eventually persuaded the agency to drop its condemnation effort, and he never proceeded with subdividing the property.
Built in 1947, the estate’s unusual-looking house has 2-1/2 bathrooms, an atrium, a circular stone fireplace, two staircases and a three-car garage. Outside on the wooded property are a swimming pool and a pond.
“(This property is) essentially a notch in the property line of the Morton Arboretum that we’ve been wanting to obtain for many years in order to increase the continuity of our west side border,” Alicia LaVire, the arboretum’s vice president of marketing and communications, told Elite Street. “Acquiring it is great in protecting against future development that might not align with the arboretum’s site plan.”
LaVire said arboretum leaders have not yet decided whether it will keep or raze the house.
Celebrating its centennial this year, the arboretum was founded by Morton Salt Company founder Joy Morton. Today, the arboretum is both a public garden and an outdoor museum, and it also has a center devoted to tree science.
“We’re glad to add this to our overall footprint as we think about the arboretum’s mission into the future,” LaVire said.
The estate had a $27,234 property tax bill in the 2020 tax year.
Goldsborough is a freelance writer.
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