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posted: 2/6/2010 12:01 AM

Tours of the Stevenson home offered on statesman's birthday

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  • Former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt was a frequent visitor to Stevenson's home, and former president John F. Kennedy made a stop there too.

      Former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt was a frequent visitor to Stevenson's home, and former president John F. Kennedy made a stop there too.
    Vincent Pierri | Staff Photographer

 
By Vincent Pierri

He wore an original campaign button in honor of the occasion.

Longtime Libertyville resident Woody Woodruff was sporting his "Adlai Stevenson II for President" pin Friday while touring Stevenson's former home in Mettawa.

"Stevenson was one of the most brilliant men around besides (former president) John Kennedy," said the 87-year-old Woodruff. "I'm glad this place is open to the public. He was a good man."

Woodruff joined dozens of others who took hourlong tours of the sprawling country home now owned by the Lake County Forest Preserve District. Forest preserve officials offered the inside look in recognition of Stevenson's birthday. A former governor of Illinois, Stevenson was also ambassador to the United Nations until his death in 1965.

Tour guests ambled through the home, which was built in 1938 just off St. Mary's Road south of Route 60. The forest preserve district completed a $2.1 million restoration project a couple of years ago and continues to refurbish the residence as funds become available. The home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Lake County Discovery Museum educator Nicole Stocker led the guided tours and said it's common for visitors to have a personal connection with Stevenson.

"I hear so many stories from people who remember seeing him around town, or maybe a relative worked for him. Their stories are always surprising," Stocker said.

Originally surrounded by 70 acres of woods and farmland, the home carries important political history. Former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt was a frequent visitor. JFK also made a stop there.

The prairie-style house features an eclectic mix of art deco and modern forms with plenty of windows. Though large, it's not opulent like its neighbor to the north, the Cuneo Museum and Gardens in Vernon Hills.

Visitor Marilyn Wallace of Waukegan said she appreciated the style of the home and the grounds, but was more impressed by the statesman who lived there.

"He was a wise and open-minded man who had great influence," Wallace said. "I can almost feel his spirit in this place."