With restoration efforts expected to take years, supporters say the McKee House needs a new roof soon to prevent further damage to the landmark structure in the Churchill Woods Forest Preserve near Glen Ellyn.
The DuPage County Forest Preserve, which owns the McKee House, last year paid for an architectural study that found the Depression-era building along St. Charles Road to be structurally sound. The report also determined the house is best suited to be either a historically themed assembly hall or a district business facility housing several adult education classrooms.
The cost of converting the two-story limestone building into either use would be between $1 million and $2 million, depending on whether the district decides to use the entire building or just the first floor.
Meanwhile, there is a group committed to seeing the building restored for public use. But members of the McKee Preservation Group say they need time to do their work.
"This will take time to raise money," said John Schreiber, a group member from Glen Ellyn. "This will take time to raise community awareness. We are prepared to undertake those efforts under the provisions that the forest preserve may place us under. However, at this stage the building is decaying."
The architects who inspected the house last year said it needs to be stabilized as soon as possible so it doesn't deteriorate further. That suggested work includes replacing the roof, dealing with drainage issues, boarding the windows and removing debris and hazardous materials.
The preservation group is asking that the district at least fix the roof.
"The addition of a roof at this early stage will prevent further damage and provide the time necessary to further explore the potential of this site," Schreiber said.
Forest preserve Commissioner Tim Whelan, whose district includes the McKee House, says he's going to ask the board to approve spending $60,000 on the roof repairs. He's also pursuing other possible sources to raise the money.
Either way, Whelan said the proposed roof project would be "a modest investment" to keep the building from decaying further.
"But that's the pitch that I need to make to these other sources and to the board itself to come up with that money," he said.
The McKee House initially was used by Robert McKee, the district's first superintendent, and later became a guard house. It has been vacant since 2002.