Living at 860|880

Don and Jane Hunt

We’ll Never Live in a House Again

Don and Jane Hunt are like the couple in the song, “I Remember It Well” (We met at nine /We met at eight./ I was on time. / No, you were late). They each have a slightly different take on the stories of their life—how they met, why they decided to move to the city, how the renovations on their new apartment unfurled. But they agree on one thing. They love where they ended up.

Don and Jane moved to their 860 residence twenty years ago, in 1992, after the school board meetings, kids’ tennis meets, and softball games had come to an end and it was time for a new chapter. As Jane tells it, they’d been talking about moving into the city from Hinsdale for a couple years, but a snow storm made the decision for her. Enough, she thought. The corner lot was too big to shovel, the kitchen was in need of a remodel, the kids were gone, and Don had had a heart attack. The house was getting to be too much for them. She walked inside and picked up the phone and called the realtor. “Don’s mouth was nearly on the floor,” she laughed.

“That’s Jane’s side, but my side of the story is a little different,” Don countered. According to Don, he’d been talking for two years about moving downtown because he hoped to retire early from his job as President and Chief Operating Officer of Harris Bank. Chicago, they’d always said, is one of the four great live-in cities, and “we wanted to take advantage of that.” In Don’s view, retirement was the beginning of a new phase of life, and that meant change. But so far anyway, it had only been talk.

“We’d been to a party and we were talking about the idea again, and I came home and said, ‘You know what? I don’t like people who keep talking about doing something and don’t do it.’ So I told Jane we’re at this juncture where we either move to the city or we stop talking about it.” Two weeks later Jane said, “Let’s move.”

In line with this new chapter, they also knew they didn’t want to just live in a house on a street in Chicago, as they had in Hinsdale. They wanted a new style of living. “Our realtor asked us, ‘Do you want to be on the ground floor or take an elevator?’  We wanted to see things differently,” Don said. “We wanted an elevator.”

And see they do. The view from their double unit in the 860 building is spectacular. The lake embraces them, creating a backdrop of blue from the North Avenue pier to Navy Pier. Fireworks on one end and the Air and Water Show on the other. And their view inside is equally spectacular. They’ve become passionate collectors of contemporary art by living Chicago artists, and their apartment has become a stunning exhibit space.

“I’ll never live in a house again,” Don says. “People call and say it’s snowing, and I don’t care. You can go on vacation and someone picks up your mail. The freedom it offers is amazing.”

“When we go downstairs to the lobby in the summer, Don will say, ‘Oh you’ve mowed the lawn so nicely today,’” Jane laughs.

They also cherish the sense of community. “We could have gone north and gotten bigger places,” said Jane, “but we just liked Streeterville.” They’d also looked in the John Hancock Center immediately to the west, but the idea of walking out your front door into a throng of shoppers didn’t excite Don. The 860 building is away from the hubbub with a neighborhood feel, yet near enough to enjoy the benefits.

For them, the architectural legacy of the building wasn’t the initial draw—but it is now what binds them to their place. “I didn’t even know who Mies was,” says Don. “It wasn’t until we came to this building that I started to read and learn about the architecture. You can’t live here and not quickly get an appreciation of what this building means.”

“There’s a sense of pride in this building,” he adds. “It’s exciting to know you live in a historically and architecturally significant building.”

What they thought would be a five-year stay has turned into twenty. “We don’t want to live anywhere else,” says Jane. “Why would we?”

A few years after they moved into 860 and after he retired, Don walked down to Paul Stuart, the men’s clothing store that was then in the Hancock Center, and said, “Teach me to tie a bow tie.” As a banker, he’d always been a suit and tie kind of guy. But it was a different life now.

“The bow tie is a reminder to me that I am in a different phase of my life,” he said. “And loving every minute,” he added.


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