Preservationists: Time needed to save McKee House

A proposal to have Glen Ellyn lease the historic McKee House at Churchill Woods Forest Preserve has preservationists concerned because they would be given less than two years to raise $400,000 to restore the building.

Glen Ellyn trustees on Monday are scheduled to talk about a proposed intergovernmental agreement with the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County during a regular workshop meeting.

If the deal becomes a reality, Glen Ellyn would lease two fleet maintenance buildings at Churchill Woods for 50 years. The $1-a-year lease also would include the McKee House, an 81-year-old limestone building that's considered one of the most endangered historic places in Illinois.

The village would benefit from the arrangement because it could use the maintenance facilities to store salt, equipment and vehicles. Other options the village has considered for salt storage would cost $600,000 to $1.2 million, officials said.

Forest preserve officials, meanwhile, asked the village to facilitate efforts to restore the McKee House and a neighboring administration building. Both structures, built in 1936, are owned by the district.

Under the proposal, the village would give private groups five years to restore the buildings. However, the groups would be given an April 1, 2019, deadline to raise $400,000 for the project.

If that deadline isn't met, the village would demolish the structures.

"In other words, they would like to see us fail," said Linda Gilbert with the nonprofit McKee Preservation Group, which is trying to raise money to restore the building.

Gilbert said Friday it's unrealistic to expect groups to raise $400,000 in less than two years.

"Unless we have some huge community effort or some wealthy donor steps forward, I don't know how this could happen," she said.

Glen Ellyn trustees won't vote Monday on the intergovernmental agreement. Gilbert said she hopes the proposal is revised before a final decision is made.

She said groups should be given more time to raise money - or a smaller amount to generate.

The McKee House was first used by Robert McKee, the forest preserve district's first superintendent. It later became a guard house. But the building has been vacant since 2002 and fallen into disrepair.

The forest preserve land Glen Ellyn might lease is located along St. Charles Road in Lombard. However, Glen Ellyn plans to annex the property by April 2019, officials said.

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