At 115 years old, Barrington's “White House” now stands more like an elderly widow greeting visitors who pass through her neighborhood than the architectural grand dame of Main Street she once was.
But if Barrington leaders have their way, the landmark house will soon become a beacon to the village's downtown.
A campaign to raise $5 million to turn the three-story Victorian-style mansion into a cultural and community center was launched this weekend with an open house that runs through Sunday.
“If there's a definition of an icon or a picture you'd put in the dictionary, I think the White House would be that for our community,” Karen Darch, village president, said.
The village owns the house that was built in 1898 for local banker John Robertson and most recently used as a Realtor's office. Darch said the village paid roughly $1.8 million for the mansion in 2007.
The goal of the group charged with overseeing its renovation is to make it self-sustaining when it is operational. The house, which includes a full basement as well, will be gutted and made compliant with modern safety regulations while sustaining its historic character.
Beth Raseman, a former village trustee and a volunteer coordinator for the renovation committee, said the operational goal is to generate $350,000 annually from events and office rental. That will offset the estimated $280,000 in annual expenses and allow the village to sock away at least $70,000 in profits for future repairs and cosmetic upgrades.
Darch said the village board has committed to moving forward with the project once it is 80 percent funded. The hope is to have it completed by February 2015 in time for the village's sesquicentennial.
In addition to the $5 million construction cost, officials are also looking to raise $1 million to set aside for reserves.
Once complete, the first floor will retain its original configuration and serve as a gathering area for events or offer showrooms for artistic presentations. The second floor will house offices for local nonprofit agencies that will pay rent to the village. The current ceiling height on that floor will be lowered to create higher ceilings on the third floor, which will be converted to a ballroom — it's original use — capable of hosting an event for 150 people. A catering kitchen will be installed on the first floor.
The business plan would require use of the ballroom about 75 percent of available weekends to meet revenue expectations, committee members said.
Raseman said she's already had at least two inquiries about hosting future weddings and that's with limited publicity about the renovation plan.
Locally owned Pepper Construction has been working with the committee to design the renovation plan and will oversee contractors hired to perform the work, Raseman said. Officials from the firm said steel support trusses will be installed to accommodate transforming the third floor back into a ballroom.
It would take about nine months to complete the renovation once work begins, said Chet Busse, a senior project manager for Pepper Construction.
Mary Smith, a longtime village resident and chairwoman of the renovation committee, said the house provides a perfect opportunity for the village to create a “community home.”
“The house is strong. The house is fine,” she said. “We have a viable, beautiful house in hand and we can't replicate its history with a new building.”Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.