Demolition would be among options for historic Stevenson home

The future of the Adlai E. Stevenson Historic Home in Mettawa is in flux as the Lake County Forest Preserve District determines how best to deal with the building and 40-acre property going forward.

It would cost $1 million or more to make the house and adjoining service building watertight. Given the buildings are more than 80 years old and will require continuing expenses, district officials say its time to decide on a long-term course.

To do that, officials have suggested $100,000 be budgeted in 2022 to craft a preliminary master plan to outline "a full range of ideas and opportunities for the future use of the former estate."

  John Nelson, the Lake County Forest Preserve District's director of operations and infrastructure, explains the condition of the Adlai E. Stevenson Historic Home for forest commissioners on Monday. Mick Zawislak/

Demolition is among the options to be considered in the master planning process, district officials said.

The three committees that comprise the full forest district board were informed of the possibilities Monday during an exterior tour of the buildings on St. Mary's Road south of Route 60 - the first in-person meeting of the full board since March 2020.

A plan for the estate would be among 10 recommended changes for 2022 in the district's 10-year Capital Improvement Plan. There was informal support to include funding for the plan but the full board will vote June 8.

It's expected to be an emotional decision. However, several forest commissioners said Stevenson's legacy, not the buildings, should be preserved.

Commissioner Sandy Hart, who also is Lake County Board chair, said she opposed spending money to rehab the buildings.

  Lake County Forest Preserve District commissioners heard a presentation Monday about the condition of the historic Adlai E. Stevenson home in Mettawa. Mick Zawislak/

"I feel, for us, it would be better to honor his legacy. To me, it's not about the structure, it's about the land that he loved," Hart said.

Commissioner Ann Maine said no historic building will ever pay for itself, and there is "something incredibly moving" about standing in a place where history was made.

"We would save some money. We would look back on it and see an open field and regret it," she said of demolishing the house.

Adlai Stevenson II was an American statesmen and Illinois governor. He was the Democratic nominee for president in 1952 and 1956 and served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

The 6,000-square-foot house and grounds known as "The Farm" stretched from St. Mary's Road to the east bank of the Des Plaines River.

It was Stevenson's home for most of his adult life and the place where he crafted speeches, articles and books and met with dignitaries, such as Eleanor Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy. He died in 1965.

The home was donated to the forest district in 1974 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 2014.

Commissioner Dick Barr said he wanted to research the property and talk with constituents, and was not prepared to make an immediate decision.

  Lake County Forest Preserve District officials are suggesting a master plan to determine the future of the Adlai E. Stevenson home and estate. Officials estimate it would cost $1 million or more to make the house and adjoining service building watertight. Mick Zawislak/

"I'm concerned about the modern push of erasing history," Barr said. "I'm not lighting a match to the house."

The district had set aside $550,000 to remove and replace the wood siding and all the windows, among other work but balked with lowest bid was $597,838.

Action was suspended during the pandemic. John Nelson, the district's director of operations and infrastructure, estimated the current price of repairs at $700,000-$800,000.

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