The business closed abruptly more than a year ago and this week the last physical link to a well-known tradition of country charm and hospitality in Lake County is being removed.
A demolition crew on Wednesday continued the work of taking down the former Country Squire restaurant, established in 1954 in a converted mansion on Route 120 just west of Route 45 in Grayslake.
Completed in 1938 for Wesley Sears, the son of the department store founder Richard Warren Sears, the 17-room home was best known as a dining destination surrounded by plush gardens that at one time boasted more than 10,000 blooming tulips and daffodils in the spring.
"It was that place in Lake County that people could identify with," said Greg Koeppen, executive director of the Lake County Farm Bureau and a member of the Grayslake Area Chamber of Commerce, Lake County Convention & Visitors Bureau and other community organizations.
He also has owned and operated a DJ business for many years. Adding the gigs for weddings to the chamber dinners, farm bureau functions and other activities, Koeppen has frequented the restaurant untold times.
"It had an ambience you wouldn't get at your typical banquet hall or hotel," he said. "It was one of those picturesque places."
Originally operated by Martin and Edna Giesel, the business was purchased by the Govas family in 1977 and the hallmarks of good food and service continued. A banquet facility was added about a decade later and became a favorite for special occasions of all types.
But by early 2012, the business that had attracted celebrities and politicians over the years, surrendered its liquor license. The closing took local officials by surprise.
Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital, which operates an outpatient center and medical office building on adjacent property to the west, purchased nine acres of the restaurant and grounds last year.
"It's contiguous to our campus so it made sense to acquire it," said Jane Griffin, a spokeswoman for Northwestern. She said the building was studied for possible re-use but it was in "pretty bad disrepair" and had to be demolished for safety reasons.
Griffin said there are no plans for the property at this time. She said new landscaping is being installed, with more to come, to improve the aesthetics of the property.
Aside from the demolition permit, there are no plans or other permits issued that are under review, Assistant Village Manager Derek Soderholm said.
Village Trustee Shawn Vogel, a lifelong Grayslake resident, celebrated many events at the Country Squire. He said the old home was part of Grayslake and Lake County history but agreed it was in "not so great" shape.
"It's a sad day but I don't know much else could have been done differently," he said. "On the plus side, we can see the hospital is expanding and investing in Grayslake."
He said a banquet facility proposed for the village's downtown could someday be the source of new memories.