Group making push to preserve McKee House near Glen Ellyn

  • The McKee Preservation Group has scheduled a public forum to educate people about its efforts to save the McKee House near Glen Ellyn.

    The McKee Preservation Group has scheduled a public forum to educate people about its efforts to save the McKee House near Glen Ellyn. Paul Michna | Staff Photographer, August 2013

 
 
Updated 8/12/2016 10:09 PM

Preservationists are hoping to rally support for the McKee House near Glen Ellyn and convince its owner -- the DuPage County Forest Preserve District -- that the building shouldn't be demolished.

Members of the McKee Preservation Group insist the 80-year-old limestone house in Churchill Woods Forest Preserve should be restored and once again have a public use.

 

To "jump start" its efforts, the nonprofit group has scheduled a public forum for 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 18, at the Lake Ellyn Boathouse at 645 Lenox Road, Glen Ellyn.

In addition to learning about the history of the McKee House and other structures on the property, people attending the meeting will get information about the campaign to preserve the buildings -- and how they can become involved.

McKee Preservation Group member Linda Gilbert said there's long been broad community support for saving the house, a visible landmark along St. Charles Road.

"We have a window of opportunity to show the (forest preserve) board again that this is not a small group," Gilbert said Friday. "A lot of people have noticed that beautiful building. They are really surprised that the forest preserve would tear down its own history."

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Thursday's meeting comes after forest preserve district President Joseph Cantore said last month that the McKee House 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 on July 19. "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."

District staff members are recommending demolishing the house. The staff recommendation was made after an architectural and engineering firm evaluated the building in terms of cultural significance and general condition.

But it's up to forest preserve commissioners to decide whether they want to raze the house, which has avoided destruction for least a decade.

On June 28, Cantore postponed a board discussion about the fate of the McKee House. He said he's willing to give supporters of the building time to find "a concrete use" for it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The McKee Preservation Group said Thursday's public forum "is part of a multi-action drive to expand awareness" about the McKee House and its historic heritage in DuPage.

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.

Still, there's debate over how much it could cost to repair the building.

According to a recent evaluation done for the forest preserve district, repairing the building would cost roughly $461,000. It would cost another $1 million to $1.5 million to bring it into code compliance for life safety and occupancy.

But supporters of the McKee House claim the work could be done for far less money.

Gilbert said the district should at least install a new roof and stabilize the house to prevent further damage. That also would help fundraising efforts because it would show the district wants the building saved, she said.

"In the past, people were like, 'If we give you money, the building may come down anyway,'" Gilbert said. "So it's hard to raise money."

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