DuPage County forest preserve may repair two historic buildings

  • The Greene Farm Barn in Greene Valley Forest Preserve near Naperville is one of two historic buildings the DuPage County Forest Preserve District wants to repair. A formal vote by commissioners is expected to happen next week.

      The Greene Farm Barn in Greene Valley Forest Preserve near Naperville is one of two historic buildings the DuPage County Forest Preserve District wants to repair. A formal vote by commissioners is expected to happen next week. Mark Black | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 6/28/2016 1:58 PM

Two historic buildings will be preserved by the DuPage County Forest Preserve District while the future of a third structure near Glen Ellyn remains in limbo.

Forest preserve commissioners on Tuesday tentatively agreed to repair and maintain the Greene Farm Barn in Greene Valley Forest Preserve near Naperville and the Ben Fuller House at Fullersburg Woods Forest Preserve in Oak Brook. A formal vote on the plan is scheduled for next week.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

While the board reviewed options for the Ben Fuller House and Greene Farm Barn, it postponed a discussion about the fate of the McKee House in Churchill Woods Forest Preserve.

District staff members recommended the 80-year-old limestone house along St. Charles Road be demolished. That recommendation came after an architectural and engineering firm evaluated the house in terms of cultural significance and general condition.

But Commissioner Tim Whelan, whose district includes the McKee House, asked to delay the discussion because he learned about the evaluation just days ago.

"That doesn't give me the opportunity to compare it to our prior report," said Whelan, referring to an architectural study done in 2013 that found the building was structurally sound.

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The 2013 report determined the house is best suited to be either a historically themed assembly hall or a district business facility housing adult education classrooms.

Needed repairs to the McKee House would cost roughly $461,000, according to the most recent evaluation. There also would be an annual expense of $8,000 to $16,000 to operate and maintain it.

To open the house to the public, officials say, would require it be brought into code compliance for life safety and occupancy. That would cost an additional $1 million to $1.5 million.

Because the restoration would be so expensive and there's no identified use for the building, staff is recommending it be demolished and a monument be installed to document its cultural significance.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

But Whelan says there is a group of residents committed to seeing the building restored for public use.

"There is local support," he said. "I'm going to show that."

In the meantime, Whelan said the house must be stabilized so it doesn't deteriorate further. He says the district should at least fix the roof.

The McKee House initially was used by Robert McKee, the district's first superintendent, and later became a guard house. It has been vacant since 2002.

While the McKee House is facing an uncertain fate, the future appears to be secure for the Ben Fuller House and the Greene Farm Barn. Commissioners are expected to vote next week on a plan to repair both buildings.

In approved, the district will spend about $19,600 to make repairs to the Ben Fuller House at York and Spring roads and set aside $4,000 to $8,000 a year for maintenance. The district also will spend about $26,400 to repair the Greene Farm Barn at Greene and Hobson roads and set aside $17,200 to $34,400 a year for maintenance.

Repairing the structures will stabilize them and ensure they can continue to be used for "the scenic pleasure" of the community, officials said.

"They serve a purpose," forest preserve President Joseph Cantore said. "They serve an educational purpose. They serve an aesthetic purpose. I think the community really wants to see them stay."

Commissioner Mary Lou Wehrli asked if a committee should be formed to consider other potential uses of the Greene Farm Barn. Other board members said it would be better to have an outside group get involved.

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