Demolition pending for Lloyd house

A hidden estate in the woods near Mettawa, regarded as a significant early work of a master architect, will be demolished.

Barring unanticipated last-minute interest from an individual or group, the history and detail of the Lloyd house will be documented and the building torn down, Lake County Forest Preserve District officials said.

A substantial effort to find someone to repair, maintain and reuse the home along the Des Plaines River went unanswered, so the forest district will cut its losses.

“In the end, we did not get any responses at all,” Executive Director Tom Hahn said. “I know it’s hard for a number of the commissioners, but there really was no one out there.”

The district acquired the home and 168 acres that included high-quality woodland in 2004 as an addition to Captain Daniel Wright Woods forest preserve.

Set deep in the woods at the end of a long driveway from St. Mary’s Road, the modernist-style home was built as a country retreat for Chicago socialites Glen and Marion Lloyd.

It was designed by Nat Owings, then of Skidmore Owings, the predecessor of Skidmore Owings & Merrill, an internationally known architectural firm.

As such, the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency determined the home could be considered for the National Register of Historic Places.

But there was found to be no practical public use for a home that has sat vacant since 2005, is prone to flooding and is deteriorating rapidly. The $625,000 cost to renovate was another deterrent, so forest preserve commissioners opted to see if there was interest elsewhere before taking any action.

A consultant was hired and the structure pitched in historic preservation and other circles. But requests for letters of interest went unanswered and an advertised tour was ignored.

Anyone who acquired the home would have to fix it up and maintain it, but would not own it.

“Nobody has stepped forward. Nobody attended the public tour. Nobody contacted the district,” said Katherine Hamilton-Smith, the district’s director of cultural resources. “We really made an attempt to disseminate it as broadly as possible.”

With that news, the district’s finance and administrative committee on Thursday pulled the trigger.

“The committee voted in favor of demolishing the building, but prior to demolition they want to have the home documented,” Hahn said.

That involves a historical narrative, measured drawings — including floor plans — and archival photographs, explained Deborah Slayton, a principal with Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates Inc. The Northbrook firm is doing the work for free.

The information will be submitted to the state under the Historic American Building Survey. It may be submitted on the federal level as well, with the findings available through the Library of Congress.

The idea is that anyone who is researching architecture or that period of design, for example, will be able to access an extensive record of what the Lloyd House had been.

Hahn said a salvage firm will be hired to identify salable pieces, and some will be saved for the Lake County Discovery Museum.

Slayton said the firm is donating its time, as is photographer Leslie Schwartz, because of a commitment to preservation. The work will take a few months.

She held out hope for a resolution that didn’t include demolition.

“They made a good effort,” Schwartz said. “Either way, it’s helpful to have the documentation because it is a significant architectural resource.”

The Glen A. Lloyd House was designed by master architect Nat Owings in the modernist style. PHOTO COURTESY SOM | Gerald Young