Like history? Here's a deal for you. Historic log cabins available -- if you can move them
Two old log cabins built as rustic weekend getaways for business and civic leaders along the Des Plaines River in southern Lake County can be yours for next to nothing. But there is a catch.
As an alternative to razing the structures, the Lake County Forest Preserve District is soliciting offers to purchase one or both of the cabins it owns in the Edward L. Ryerson Conservation Area near Riverwoods.
As advertised, the buyers will identify the price, if any, they are willing to pay for the Borland and Cramer cabins.
However, the buyers have to identify the long-term intended use of the cabins, which must include their continued preservation for a period of time. That use has to be consistent with the cabins' listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
But it can't be at Ryerson. The cabins have to be moved off the site by May 20 and out of Ryerson altogether by July 1.
For more than 30 years, the 1940s-era cabins were used as classrooms for district educational programs. Before the pandemic, as many as 10,000 school kids visited annually.
But the cabins are at the end of their useful lives. They also are neither compliant with accessibility codes nor properly sized for programming needs.
The district plans to build a 3,400-square-foot environmental education center where the cabins are located. Construction of the $4.5 million first phase, which includes the net-zero energy use building, is scheduled to begin in June.
In 1996, a portion of the Ryerson property was placed on the National Register of Historic Places for its social and architectural significance.
Chauncey Borland was a Chicago banker and a contemporary of Ryerson, a steel industry magnate.
The Cramer cabin was built as a temporary home for Ambrose Cramer, an architect who designed Brushwood, Ryerson's country home. The cabin was relocated to its current spot to house farmworkers.
In May and June of 2021, a forest preserve committee recommended approval of a new center, which required the removal of the cabins.
After discussions with the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, the district was asked to look for a suitable owner to relocate, use and maintain the cabin's historical integrity.
"Their contribution to the overall story of the Ryerson family and the evolution of the property are what make them significant," said Randy Seebach, the district's director of planning and land preservation.
The National Register designation does not obligate the district to keep and maintain the cabins. In exploring its options, the district got quotes of $102,000 to $130,000 from two building movers to relocate the cabins to another location at Ryerson.
"It's pretty hard to spend $100,000 or more to move 80-year old buildings we don't have an identified use for," Seebach told commissioners during a presentation about two weeks ago.
The district also solicited statements of interest from parties to acquire and relocate the cabins off-site at their expense. Two were received, and forest preserve commissioners voted Tuesday to officially solicit offers to purchase the cabins. Offers are due by March 23.
Commissioners also approved a contract for $449,525 with Wight Construction Services Inc. for construction management services of the new environmental education facility.