Before preservationists can attempt to save a landmark structure at Churchill Woods Forest Preserve, they first must know how much money they'll need to raise.
Acknowledging that dilemma, the DuPage Forest Preserve Commission might hire an architectural firm specializing in historic renovation to determine possible uses for the McKee House and calculate a price tag for restoring it.
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Forest preserve President D. Dewey Pierotti on Tuesday suggested the study after saying he doesn't believe local preservationists have enough information to properly raise money to restore the Depression-era home at the preserve on St. Charles Road near Glen Ellyn.
"If you just go out and ask people to contribute to something without having a master plan and some sort of endpoint as to how much this is going to cost," Pierotti said, "it's going to make it very difficult to raise the money."
The two-story limestone house -- built for Robert McKee, the forest preserve district's first superintendent -- and a second building that housed the district's first headquarters were spared from the wrecking ball in 2006 when the DuPage Housing Authority signed a lease for the property.
However, the housing authority's plan to convert the McKee house and the other structure for a veterans housing project never materialized. After letting the lease expire, the authority said it no longer had any interest in the buildings.
Now the group Citizens for Glen Ellyn Preservation is planning to find funding to save the structures.
Forest preserve officials previously estimated that repairing the buildings to operating standards would cost between $350,000 and $750,000.
Still, Pierotti said the district hasn't explored alternative uses for the structures. The proposed study would.
"In the spirit of cooperation, we should do this," Pierotti said. "Because once a building is down, it's down forever."
Commissioner Tim Whelan agreed, adding that an architect's findings could help preservationists decide if the house can be saved.
"The answer may be that it's cost prohibitive," said Whelan, who has voiced support for preserving the structure. "But I think we have to have that information."
The board must sign off on any plans to hire an architect. A public discussion about the issue is scheduled for next week.
It's not yet known how much the study would cost. Pierotti said it could be paid from money the district had already set aside for demolishing the building.
In addition to talking about the house, the board next week is expected to have a larger discussion about what the district should do with other historic buildings, including the Greene Farm barn near Naperville.