Geneva council could decide fate of blacksmith shop Tuesday

The Geneva City Council this week could decide the fate of a circa 1843 limestone blacksmith shop, as its owners have appealed the Historic Preservation Commission's denial of its request to remove its landmark designation and allow its demolition.

The special meeting is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday in council chambers, 109 James St.

The Shodeen Family Foundation owns the former Mill Race Inn property at 4 E. State St., a 1.4-acre site at the southwest corner of routes 38 and 25.

Demolition is a last resort if the owner has no other alternatives - an issue that's in dispute.

Shodeen representative David Patzelt has testified to the poor condition of the limestone structure, based on architects' analysis for repurposing and restoring the structure. He noted an assessment by architectural firm AltusWorks, which found the structure to be "severely deteriorated, poor condition, missing limestone, cracked mortar joints, not properly mortared joints, unstable, no longer stable. ... The existing structural remnants of the original ... building are only marginally stable."

To make his point about the lack of viability for the structure, Patzelt put a sign up in March offering to sell it for $1. So far, Patzelt said, the sign brought in only demolition offers.

Among those advocating for the building's preservation are Geneva resident Colin Campbell, Kendra Parzen, advocacy manager for Landmarks Illinois, and Al Watts of Preservation Partners of the Fox Valley.

Landmarks Illinois designated the blacksmith shop as one of the most endangered historic places in the state this year and in 2018.

"This circa-1846 blacksmith shop is one of the oldest surviving commercial structures in Geneva, and it's an important structure associated with Geneva's pioneer era," Parzen testified before the preservation commission in January.

The city's preliminary historic evaluation of the site described it "as one of the few examples of pre-1850 commercial or industrial buildings in Geneva and is among the oldest of its kind in the entire Fox Valley."

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