Historic Mineola Hotel in Fox Lake up for auction on eBay
Fox Lake owner takes unconventional approach to sale
The historic Fox Lake building once made famous as a weekend retreat for mobster Al Capone is up for national online auction on eBay.
The Mineola Lounge and Marina, located on the shores of Fox Lake, was listed Monday on eBay with a starting bid of $2 million.
Owner Pete Jakstas agreed he's taking an unconventional route to try to sell the 17 acres of lakefront property, the Mineola Hotel, the marina and his former home.
"I figured by putting it on eBay, it would draw some bids from around the country," said Jakstas, who has been trying to sell the Mineola for a couple of years. "Hopefully, this will help sell the property on a national market to the right bidder."
After nearly 50 years of working in the same location, he said he's is ready to retire.
The Mineola may not be the largest item up for bid on the Internet auction website, but it is among the quirkiest. Listed on eBay under commercial real estate, it will compete for buyers with the likes of an elementary school in Kentucky, a ghost town in Kansas and the famous Sheepshead Bay Waterfront restaurant in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Attempts to contact an eBay spokesman about the auction were unsuccessful Wednesday.
While the Mineola's opening bid is listed at $2 million, a higher reserve price has been set for the property. Per eBay rules, that undisclosed reserve amount must be reached for the property to sell online.
What a buyer would get, local historians say, is the "Grand Lady of the Lakes" -- even if she has been showing her age for more than a few years.
"It's so beautiful in the old pictures," said Nancy Kubalanza, president of the Grant Township Historical Society. "And, even though it's fallen into disrepair, it's still a shining beacon when you drive by it on a boat and see it from the water."
Kubalanza said the four-story building comes with a vast -- and colorful -- history.
Built in 1884, it was once listed as the oldest wooden structure in Illinois, and was named to the National Register of Historic Places by the United States Department of Interior and Parks in 1979.
But, the hotel and lounge is best known as the hangout for several mobsters in years leading up to the early 1920s. Among them was Capone, who used Fox Lake and the Mineola as a weekend retreat.
In later years, the Mineola gained a following for the Mineola Fireworks show, a grand annual event known to draw some 20,000 boats on the Fourth of July. It ended when Jakstas retired from organizing it in 2008.
And it's even known to ghost hunters from across the United States who have been clamoring to get inside and search for spirits believed to roam there.
Kubalanza said it would be incredible to see the building renovated or return as a hotel of some kind, but admitted that may be unlikely due to the amount of work the building needs.
"People still ask the historical society if the Mineola is open and operating as a hotel," she said. "Fox Lake really was known because of the Mineola."
Though the Mineola Lounge and restaurant remains open on the ground floor, the upper floors of the hotel have been closed since the early 1960s for safety reasons.
The building's structural integrity has been the subject of a court battle between Jakstas and Fox Lake village officials since 2011.
Building Commissioner Frank Urbina has been working for a year to shutter the hotel, claiming the structure is unsafe and could possibly collapse. Jakstas and his structural engineers have said the Mineola shows some wear and tear due to its age, but most of the damage is cosmetic.
The two sides are due to meet in front of a Lake County judge on May 9. If the judge decides the Mineola is unsafe, Jakstas will be forced to close the restaurant until the building is repaired or torn down.
Fox Lake Mayor Ed Bender said he was shocked to hear the Mineola was up for auction on eBay, but wished Jakstas luck.
"I know he's been trying to sell it for the last two or three years, so I wish him good luck on it," he said. "In today's market, it's going to be tough, but hopefully he can pull it off."
Jakstas said he had hopes of renovating the Mineola. However, the death of his daughter, Karen, in October pushed him in a new direction.
"After Karen died, the entire family said it's time to just sell and get out from under it," he said "So, I made the decision to retire. I'm tired, and with what the village is putting me through, it's time to get out."
eBay: Judge could close building at May 9 hearing