National Park Service thinks Stevenson home could be a National Historic Landmark
The National Park Service is considering nominating the Adlai E. Stevenson Historic Home, owned by the Lake County Forest Preserve District, as a National Historic Landmark.
Paul Valade | Staff Photographer, 2008
As the Republican National Convention takes center stage in Florida, there is continued interest in a Lake County Democrat, who generations ago twice ran unsuccessfully as his party's presidential candidate.
Adlai E. Stevenson II, a revered statesman, crafted many speeches, articles and books and met with dignitaries including Eleanor Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy at his rural retreat off St. Mary's Road in the Captain Daniel Wright Woods Forest Preserve near Mettawa.
The home is already designated an Illinois Historic Site and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but the National Park Service says it could be a fitting nominee as a National Historic Landmark.
Despite his losses in 1952 and 1956, Stevenson meets the criteria as a nationally significant individual who had an important association with national diplomatic and political history in the mid-20th century, according to Robie Lange, a historian with the National Historic Landmarks program.
Basically, a nomination in this instance could serve broader purposes as an example of how to document when a "failed" political candidate can have a national impact and when a historical figure's home can make a strong candidate as a National Historic Landmark, he said.
Though known for those presidential defeats, Stevenson, a former Illinois governor, also served as ambassador to the United Nations during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, considered one of the most dangerous conflicts in Cold War history.
But his associations with the U.N. and the Democratic Party are deeper. Between 1945 and 1947, he served in several important positions that influenced the makeup of the emerging organization, according to Lange. He also had a major influence in politics beyond the presidential campaign by leading the way as the party recast itself.
And the home is more than just about where a person ate and slept, Lange said.
"It's where their important activities occur," he said. And while his duties took him for weeks or months at a time to various locales, Stevenson considered his Lake County retreat the home to which he always returned.
The site, known as "The Farm," was donated to the Lake County Forest Preserve District in 1974. In 2000, the district received a $2 million state grant to restore the home and grounds. The facilities are open for self-guided and guided tours and also are used by the not-for-profit Adlai Stevenson Center for Democracy, which has a license agreement with the district.
Katherine Hamilton-Smith, the district's director of cultural resources, said while there are more than 80,000 sites on the National Register of Historic Places, there are fewer than 2,500 National Historic Landmarks, including 84 in Illinois. What also is unusual in this case is the district was approached by the park service, she added.
Lange said the agency thought the Stevenson home had possibilities when it received information for the National Register designation and he began researching as time allowed. Pending the expected approval of the district to continue the process, a site visit will be scheduled.
The entire process from nomination to review to designation by the secretary of the Interior would take about a year. Benefits mainly are prestige in terms of securing grants, incentives and preservation services.
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