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Article updated: 7/24/2013 11:32 AM

Barrington will restore historic Robertson House by 2015

Barrington officials this week cleared the way for renovations to the historic John Robertson House, also known as the “White House.” The plan calls for the 19th century home to ultimately include a cultural center, office space for nonprofit groups and a ballroom for special events. The village bought the house in 2007.

Barrington officials this week cleared the way for renovations to the historic John Robertson House, also known as the "White House." The plan calls for the 19th century home to ultimately include a cultural center, office space for nonprofit groups and a ballroom for special events. The village bought the house in 2007.

 

Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Barrington officials this week cleared the way for renovations to the historic John Robertson House, also known as the “White House.” The plan calls for the 19th century home to ultimately include into a cultural center, office space for nonprofit groups and a ballroom for special events. The village bought the house in 2007.

Barrington officials this week cleared the way for renovations to the historic John Robertson House, also known as the "White House." The plan calls for the 19th century home to ultimately include into a cultural center, office space for nonprofit groups and a ballroom for special events. The village bought the house in 2007.

 

Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Barrington officials this week cleared the way for renovations to the historic John Robertson House, also known as the “White House.” The plan calls for the 19th century home to ultimately include into a cultural center, office space for nonprofit groups and a ballroom for special events. The village bought the house in 2007.

Barrington officials this week cleared the way for renovations to the historic John Robertson House, also known as the "White House." The plan calls for the 19th century home to ultimately include into a cultural center, office space for nonprofit groups and a ballroom for special events. The village bought the house in 2007.

 

Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

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By Mackenzie Dye

Barrington officials this week approved special use permits that will allow the historic John Robertson House to become a community and cultural center after renovations are complete in 2015.

The 115-year-old house, also known as "The White House," stands at 145 W. Main St., an area that was once the village's millionaire's row. Today the house is filled with vacant offices, cracked ceilings and scraped wooden floors. The restoration will turn the house back into a treasure, officials said.

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"This house is an icon in the community," Village President Karen Darch said. "We are recreating the vibrant village and community that we all know and love."

The village board's plans for the stately Queen Anne-style house to be self-sustaining, rather than simply turning it into a museum that would not generate enough funds to pay for its own upkeep.

Included in the new plan is a first-floor cultural center with public space, offices on the second floor for nonprofit organizations and the use of the original third-floor ballroom for special events.

The grand entrance stairway will be extended to wrap around and up to the third-floor ballroom, as it currently only reaches the second floor. An addition built in the 1950s will be removed and replaced with a longer addition that will include an elevator and stairway.

Although the cost of the restoration is undetermined, the village said the money would come from fundraising, grants and donations from the community.

"There will be fundraising from private foundations, corporations, as well as applying for state and possibly federal grants that support restoration," said Beth Raseman, a former village trustee who is leading the project.

Pepper Construction presented officials this week a projected timeline for the project, including a 42-week construction plan that will begin in 2014 and end in 2015. Preconstruction work already has begun.

Village board members see the proposed completion date as a great way to celebrate Barrington's sesquicentennial, marking 150 years since the village's founding in 1865.

The plans for the restoration came after the village received a $3,000 seed grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which was used to prepare an existing conditions and feasibility study on the 19th century home.

After its construction in 1898 by John Robertson, the house was adapted for multiple uses as time passed. It was a hospital for those suffering from the influenza epidemic after World War I, a home for the elderly in the 1940s and most recently an office for Barrington Realty, said Raseman.

Its history led village officials to purchase the house in 2007 and begin work with the Illinois Historical Preservation Agency to restore it to its former glory.

"We cannot afford at this time in our history to throw this thing to the four winds," said Mary Williams, who sold the house to the village after maintaining it for years.

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