KENWOOD — It looks like work at the historic Franks mansion in Kenwood, where the victim of the so-called "perfect crime" lived more than 90 years ago, will restart after years of delays.
The mansion was built in 1910 for Jacob Franks, whose middle son was kidnapped and murdered in 1924 by wealthy University of Chicago students Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, who aimed to prove their intellectual superiority by pulling off a “perfect crime.”
The Franks fled the mansion after the arrest of Leopold and Loeb and the ensuing “trial of the century,” a media circus which catapulted neighborhood attorney Clarence Darrow to national prominence.
The mansion has now been vacant since the DeLeana Day School moved out in 1991.
Building permits from 2010 for more than $1.2 million in restorations were renewed on Jan. 7 for the mansion at 5020 S. Ellis Ave., where work was held up for years while the owners sorted out quarrels with their contractors and nearly lost the historic home.
Earl and Barbara Bowles of Kenwood bought the notorious mansion in 2007 for an estimated $484,000 and in 2010 unveiled plans to revive the mansion as two condos expected to cost $1 million each while maintaining the historic exterior.
The Bowles appeared to be making progress on restoring the building in the Kenwood Historic District until late 2014, when disagreements with their contractors came to a head, according to Cook County real estate documents.
The Bowles did not return requests for comment.
The Leopold and Loeb case is featured in the PBS documentary, The Perfect Crime, to air Tuesday night.
Work at the house was already at a near standstill in 2012, when the Bowles and their general contractor, Foster Design Build, faced nearly $80,000 in liens on the property for allegedly unpaid bills to subcontractors, the last of which was resolved in mid-2014.
By November 2014, city inspectors had tagged the mansion as an abandoned building and the city started the process of taking the building away from the Bowles, according to court documents.
A judge ordered on Jan. 5 that the Bowles come to their Feb. 6 court date with permits in hand if they wanted to hold onto the historic mansion, according to court documents.
According to city records, the Bowles renewed their original 2010 permits on Jan. 7 and have hired Revere Properties Construction as their new contractor.
A representative from Revere Properties did not return calls for comment.
During a visit to the site on Thursday, the garage appeared nearly complete, but the main home had been marked with graffiti and plastic over several of the windows had come down, leaving the mansion open to the winter weather.
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