Chicago’s Infamous O’Leary Mansion Is For Sale

Includes a dedicated fire hydrant and a secret basement tunnel

Inside the mansion
Inside the O'Leary Mansion.
Realty of Chicago LLC

History has given Catherine O’Leary a raw deal. O’Leary’s name was associated with the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 for over a century, as a cow that she owned was associated with having started it. The city of Chicago later exonerated O’Leary of any wrongdoing. It’s a strange way to go down in history, though stranger ways certainly exist.

One of Mrs. O’Leary’s sons went on to make a fortune from gambling, and used some of his wealth to build a mansion in honor of his mother. Now, that mansion is on the market — and an article by Jamie Nesbitt Golden at Block Club Chicago has more details on both the sale and the building’s history.

Its features include a dedicated fire hydrant outside, a pair of vaults and a basement tunnel — now sealed — that once connected it to another home. (The last of these may be a relic of Prohibition.) The property also includes a coach house.

The mansion encompasses 6,720 square feet, including 18 bedrooms and 10 bathrooms. It’s currently on sale for $535,700. As of 2020, the mansion was described as one that would “require a lot of work to bring it back to its full grandeur.” However, the building retains a great deal of the woodworking that it had when it was first built — an unexpected piece of history in a historic city.

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