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North African-inspired house built for Elijah Muhammad’s daughter sells

North African-inspired house built for Elijah Muhammad’s daughter sells

One of four North African-inspired houses in Kenwood built in the early 1970s to house family members of Nation of Islam founder Elijah Muhammad sold Tuesday. Selling for $1.1 million, the six-bedroom, 4,400-square-foot house on 49th Street has a two-story central atrium with skylights above, “like the houses built around courtyards in North Africa,” said Sliman Bensmaia, who bought the house with his wife, Kerry Ledoux. Both are University of Chicago faculty. “I’m so pumped about it,” Bensmaia said, “because my father was Algerian—I lived in Algeria until I was about 2—and this house is like houses that some of my relatives had” in North Africa. He said that he and Ledoux had been living in a condominium and not actively house-hunting when the house came on the market in late March, but “we took a look and it has all these arches inside and tile. It’s a modern house with a North African twist.” Built on a double lot in 1973, the home has a tall panel of stained glass in a Moorish pattern above the front door, but its blond brick exterior otherwise “doesn’t look exotic until you go inside,” said Joanne Bullen, the Ultimate Realty Group agent who represented Bensmaia and Ledoux. Inside, she said, a diamond-patterned wood ceiling hangs above the living room, arched doorways and windows, and African-patterned tile in the bathrooms “are so different from most houses.” In the early 1970s, Elijah Muhammad commissioned Egyptian architect M. Momen to design five houses, one for him and four in a row across the street for his children and aides. Cook County property records indicate this home, on the corner of 49th and Woodlawn Avenue, was owned by Muhammad’s daughter Ethel Muhammad Sharrieff, and after her death in 2002, by two of her daughters until 2009, when they turned over the deed to a lender that had begun foreclosure proceedings, according to the Cook County recorder of deeds. Elijah Muhammad’s house, on the east side of Woodlawn, is now owned by Louis Farrakhan, the current head of the Nation of Islam. Of the four houses on the west side of Woodlawn, the one that Bensmaia and Ledoux bought “seems to be the closest to its original condition,” said Jessie Pinkham, the Ultimate Realty Group agent who represented the sellers. “Some of the others have been gutted inside.” The sellers, identified in county property records as Isabel Bichao and Jorge Parada, bought the house from the foreclosing lender in 2010 for $510,000. At the time, the skylights leaked and many of the floors were damaged, Pinkham said, and the couple “restored it all carefully,” trying to preserve the original look as designed by Momen. They put it on the market in late March, asking a little less than $1.2 million, and had a contract with the buyers in early June. The sale closed Tuesday. An earlier version of this article reported an incorrect day for this week’s sale.

North African-inspired house built for Elijah Muhammad’s daughter sells

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