Former hotel designated as Libertyville's third local landmark
In the early days of the New Castle Hotel in downtown Libertyville, travelers impeded by bad weather would hunker down on cots in the hallways as lodging was at a premium.
Built in 1903, the two-story building at 520-530 N. Milwaukee Ave. -- a main strip that still is the center of shopping and other activities -- was the largest of three hotels in town.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998, the New Castle last week was designated a local landmark by the village board at a point where historic preservation efforts are beginning to bear fruit.
"What we need to do is educate the people," said Jim Hartshorne, chairman of the historic preservation commission. Its members were appointed in October 2014, two years after village officials enacted a historic preservation ordinance.
"We're not here to restrict what people can do. We're here to preserve what's there," he added.
To that end, the commission at 7 p.m. Thursday will host an open house at village hall, 118 W. Cook Ave. The results of a recently completed building survey by Ramsey Historic Consultants Inc. of Chicago will be discussed, as well as the content of the www.historiclibertyville.com website.
Known as the Proctor Building for the family of three brothers and a cousin who comprised an early land syndicate and developed the site, the New Castle's significance is more its role in the commerce of a growing town than its 20th Century Revival style.
With five commercial spaces stretching 110 feet along Milwaukee Avenue and 26 rooms above, the New Castle was regarded as Libertyville's first big-time urban building. It also was a keystone at a time when the village was "gradually throwing off her country clothes and putting on a metropolitan dress," according to a news account at the time.
Through the years, the building housed a succession of well-known businesses, including F.W. Woolworth Co., A&P grocery and Marjen furniture. It was expanded over time and its luster faded, but eventually was revived.
Common areas have been restored and the old hotel sign was rescued and is on display in the lobby, according to Sandi Whitmore, one of the five owners. There currently are eight retail spaces, including those in the rear of the building and 13 apartments that always are full in what has become an extremely busy area.
The New Castle is the third locally designated landmark following the Cook House, 413 N. Milwaukee Ave., and the David Adler Estate, and the first privately owned building on the list.
Local landmark designation means alterations require commission review and award of a certificate of appropriateness. At some point, neighborhood historic districts may become a consideration but downtown remains the initial focus of the commission.