Could Wheaton Park District help save Loretto Convent building?

Wheaton Park District commissioners will hold a special meeting Wednesday to discuss an agreement that could save a historic structure on the Loretto Convent campus, but officials were tight-lipped Tuesday about the specifics of the deal.

Housing developers on Wednesday also are expected to finalize the purchase of the nearly 16 acres at 1600 Somerset Lane from Catholic nuns.

The sale of their land to Pulte Homes will provide money for the retirement and health care of Loretto's aging nuns, who already have moved out of the convent and into senior living facilities in the suburbs, their attorney says.

The Wheaton City Council approved plans last month to redevelop the secluded site — owned by Loretto sisters since 1946 — into upscale, ranch-style homes for empty nesters.

The project would demolish more than a dozen buildings on the tree-lined campus to make way for the Loretto Club, a community of 48 homes. Preservationists have fought to spare the House of Seven Gables from the wrecking ball and could find a willing partner in the park district.

The only item on the public portion of the agenda for the meeting concerns an agreement about the donation of an unidentified structure on the Loretto property to the park district and its “subsequent relocation” to park land. The meeting is set for 4 p.m. at the DuPage County Historical Museum at 102 E. Wesley St.

Park board President John Vires did not immediately return a message requesting comment Tuesday. Pulte representatives said they will comment on the agreement at the board meeting. Chris Picone, an attorney for the Loretto sisters, said he has not been involved in the discussions.

Pulte offered to donate the 1890s-era House of Seven Gables to anyone willing to relocate it. An attorney for the company told the city council in late February that no one had stepped forward.

Landmarks Illinois, a nonprofit group that called on developers to repurpose the House of Seven Gables as part of the new subdivision, has publicized Pulte's offer on social media.

History buffs have called the brick mansion an irreplaceable work of architect Jarvis Hunt. Built in 1897, the house was part of the “Colony,” an exclusive neighborhood of summer cottages for members of the private Chicago Golf Club, the first 18-hole course in the country. Hunt also designed its clubhouse.

Steel magnate Jay Morris later commissioned Hunt to design the home for his daughter. The aging structure features a gabled roof and ornate wood carvings.

History buffs try to save Wheaton mansion from wrecking ball

Wheaton board recommends approval of controversial Loretto subdivision

  A photo taken from the Daily Herald drone shows the Loretto Convent in relation to neighboring homes to the west. Jeff Knox/, March 2017
Preservationists are trying to save the House of Seven Gables, shown in a 1911 postcard, from demolition on the 16-acre Loretto Convent property, where developers plan to build 48 homes. Courtesy of Nancy Flannery
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