A finding that the old farm buildings at Lakewood Forest Preserve near Wauconda don't have sufficient integrity to warrant federal historic listing will be considered in determining their fate, Lake County officials say.
The county forest preserve district, which owns the buildings that housed the Discovery Museum, Teich Postcard Archives and other uses, will take the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency's finding into account as a master plan for Lakewood unfolds.
"This (finding) gives us flexibility. We can save certain buildings if we want, but we're not bound," board President Ann Maine said. "We can make a plan that fits our needs. This is very important because there were so many claims about buildings out there that were not true."
With the relocation of the museum to Libertyville underway, attention this spring will turn to the fate of an old barn it occupied and four other remaining buildings.
Lake Barrington resident, barn expert and historical/environmental consultant Nancy Schumm last spring questioned the museum move and whether the former dairy complex should be saved.
Schumm also asked the state preservation agency to evaluate what had been known as Lakewood Farms for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places for its agricultural significance as a working farm from 1937 to 1965.
In a response last month, the agency said the transformation to a museum and forest preserve extensively altered the appearance and diluted the agricultural significance of the facilities as an operating farm.
Andrew Heckenkamp, National Register coordinator for the state agency, and a colleague visited the facilities near Wauconda and cited the additions and alterations to the buildings to convert them to museum space, the installation of parking lots and changes to historically agricultural land as major concerns.
"After taking into account the on-site inspection, as well as all of the information submitted to this office, it is our opinion that Lakewood Farms does not have sufficient integrity for listing in the National Register of Historic Places," he informed Schumm.
Cultural value to a community cannot be measured solely by guidelines written in an agency rule book, Schumm said.
"To deny the cultural value of this estate, regardless of modifications made to it, is a betrayal of both the history of the site and its importance in preserving Lake County history for the past 50 years," she said.
Forest district officials have contended it was too costly to maintain, repair or rebuild the structures, but they have stopped short of authorizing complete demolition.
Schumm also sparked the buildings' listing on Landmark Illinois' 2016 Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois, but even that organization said it would take public/private partnerships to keep the buildings intact.
Lakewood Farms was developed as a model gentleman's farm in 1937 and was sold in 1967 to the forest district.
The museum opened there in the 1970s but closed Sept. 1. An expanded version will open in late 2017 in the district's general office building in Libertyville.
The upcoming Lakewood master plan process will include public input sessions and an analysis of the existing buildings to determine if any can be reused, officials said.