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updated: 11/19/2013 3:01 PM

Consultant: McKee House can be saved for $1 million to $2 million

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  • Architects believe the DuPage County Forest Preserve District can use the McKee House as an assembly hall or an adult education center -- but there's a cost associated with such a project.

      Architects believe the DuPage County Forest Preserve District can use the McKee House as an assembly hall or an adult education center -- but there's a cost associated with such a project.
    Paul Michna | Staff Photographer


DuPage County Forest Preserve officials have some expensive decisions to make if they ultimately decide to spare Glen Ellyn's McKee House from the wrecking ball.

According to a recently completed architectural study, the structurally sound colonial revival-style house is best suited to be either a historically themed assembly hall or a district business facility housing several adult education classrooms.

Plans for either of those uses will cost the district between $1 million and $2 million, depending on whether it chooses to use the entire building or just the first floor.

The house initially was used by Robert McKee, the district's first superintendent, and later by other superintendents and executive directors until 1996, when it became a guard house. It has been vacant since 2002.

"For a 1936 residential structure, it looks really in excellent condition. The roof is in poor shape, but structurally the building is very sound and the masonry is in pretty good condition," said consultant Ellen Stoner of AltusWorks. "The biggest problem is the roof and the water. There's quite a bit of water infiltration on the second floor that's resulted in some localized damage."

Despite being deemed structurally sound, architects said the historic building, located in the Churchill Woods Forest Preserve on the Lombard-Glen Ellyn border, needs to be stabilized as soon as possible to prevent further damage should the district decide to save the house.

"You need to stabilize it and mothball it so it would not deteriorate any further. That would include replacing the roof, dealing with the drainage issues, mothballing the building to the point where we're boarding the windows but allowing a low level of heat and ventilation," Stoner said. "We would also recommend going in at this point and cleaning out the building of all debris, removing the hazardous materials, including the mold in the basement area and the flaking lead-based paint."

The cost for stabilizing the building is estimated to be about $230,000. Stoner said it would take the district about three years to raise the money and plan for the project.

Commissioners accepted the AltusWorks report, but said they would discuss the proposal in more depth at a planning meeting.

Commissioner Mary Lou Wehrli said she is looking forward to seeing how the public responds to the proposal and associated costs.

"I'm glad this report was able to provide us some detail in terms of the next steps that might be considered and a very strong idea of what the commitment might involve," Wehrli said. "The expenses I see here are huge and I would support any organization that would come up and take care of them, but I do not see that as vital to our mission."

Commissioner Tim Whelan, whose district includes the McKee House, compared the proposed renovations to others the district has undertaken, including the recent Mayslake Peabody Estate renovation.

"I don't consider these funds to be so out of line in terms of what we've done, so I appreciate the report and will seek the community support needed to go forward," Whelan said. "What I envision is for the center of the county to have this historical building as a cultural center that kind of fits that line of cultural, educational access."

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