Laschen Center, link to Vernon Hills' past, planned for demolition
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The start of a new year marks the official end of a familiar building dating to the early days of Vernon Hills.
As of Jan. 1, the Larry Laschen Community Center has been permanently closed to use by community and other groups and is scheduled to be demolished, likely in the fall.
"The building is nearly 60 years old, from best we can estimate," Village Manager John Kalmar said. "It has a number of very old or failing systems."
Village officials decided to eventually close and mothball the building after learning it would cost about $250,000 per year to operate and maintain.
"I think the building has served it purpose," Kalmar said.
Currently, $300,000 is set aside in the tentative 2018-19 capital improvement budget for demolition and $300,000 in the 2019-20 budget for open space improvements.
"We don't have a formal plan, but I think the vision will be a grassy area, benches and maybe a plaza," Kalmar said. Details will be worked out during upcoming budget discussions.
In the late 1950s, the building on Evergreen Drive just south of Route 45 served as the clubhouse for the members-only Tally Ho Country Club, which included a golf course, swimming pool, motel and restaurant.
The luxurious supper club was said to be a hangout for well-to-do and powerful people who wanted a breather in a country atmosphere. The operation even featured a Geisha room where customers had to take off their shoes.
Nearby land was developed for Vernon Hills' first houses. The village acquired what is now the 9-hole municipal golf course to the east along Route 45, as well as surrounding property in the late 1970s.
The Tally Ho clubhouse was used as the village hall from 1980 to 2002, when the current village hall opened just to the north at Evergreen Drive and Route 45.
The old clubhouse was turned over to the Vernon Hills Park District. It was named for Larry Laschen, who was hired as police chief in 1973 and later as village manager until his retirement in 1998. He navigated the village's residential and commercial building boom.
Groups such as homeowners' associations, Scouts, clubs and, for a time, state Rep. Carol Sente rented space in the building.
Last year, the park district moved its offices to an expanded space at the Sullivan Community Center.
The New Life Fellowship Church, which held worship services and other functions in the building, was the last user.
"We closed down the Laschen center," Pastor Louis Love said. The congregation has moved to Waukegan.
"We were there for 20 years," Love said. "It met our needs perfectly."
The village is proceeding with a plan, approved last summer, to repurpose space at village hall to create meeting areas that could be used by some of the smaller groups.