Outside help needed to save landmark building near Glen Ellyn
DuPage County Forest Preserve President Joseph Cantore said Tuesday the McKee House near Glen Ellyn could be spared from the wrecking ball, if preservationists rally to save it.
"I would love to have the McKee House on our landscape," Cantore said of the 80-year-old limestone house in Churchill Woods Forest Preserve. "But it's got to have a use. I think it can have a use if the proper organizations get involved. The involvement has to be there, and the money has to be there."
Cantore's remarks come three weeks after he postponed a forest preserve commission discussion about the fate of the building.
District staff members are recommending demolition of the house, a visible landmark along St. Charles Road. The staff recommendation was made after an architectural and engineering firm recently evaluated the house in terms of cultural significance and general condition.
But it's up to commissioners to decide whether they want to raze house, which has avoided destruction for least a decade.
Cantore said he's willing to give Commissioner Tim Whelan, whose district includes the McKee House, and others time to find "a concrete use" for the building.
"I want to work with Commissioner Whelan on giving them the time they need to find a group or groups that can come in with a use and the funding to make something happen," he said.
On Tuesday, Whelan said he's working with a group of residents to raise awareness about the McKee House and reach out to others interested in preserving it.
"I am going to show them (commissioners) that this is what the constituency wants," said Whelan, adding there will be efforts to raise money to help fix the building.
According to the recent evaluation, repairing the building would cost roughly $461,000. It would cost another $1 million to $1.5 million to bring the house into code compliance for life safety and occupancy.
However, Whelan said he's talked to a structural engineer who believes the work could be done for far less money.
The McKee House was built in 1936 by the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps. Initially used by Robert McKee, the forest district's first superintendent, the building later became a guard house. But it's been vacant since 2002 and has fallen into disrepair.
Despite the damage, an architectural study in 2013 found the building to be structurally sound. That report also determined the house is best suited to be either a historically themed assembly hall or a district business facility housing several adult education classrooms.