Editorial: Palatine should pursue historic preservation commission

  • Nathan and Philip Etter own a 136-year-old house in Palatine, and they're asking the village to establish a historic preservation commission to protect homes like theirs.

    Nathan and Philip Etter own a 136-year-old house in Palatine, and they're asking the village to establish a historic preservation commission to protect homes like theirs. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Posted11/17/2021 1:00 AM

Nathan and Philip Etter burst with pride when talking about their home and their adopted hometown.

The couple moved five years ago from Chicago to a 136-year-old Palatine home, a Queen Anne Victorian at North Plum Grove Road and Colfax Street that over the years has housed a nursing home and a law firm. They bought it in 2018.


The Etters love the house's features, from the eye-catching turret to the original wooden banister. Add in its welcoming front porch and picturesque landscaping, and this beautiful house wouldn't be out of place in a Hallmark holiday movie.

But the couple discovered something concerning: Palatine has no historic preservation program. If the Etters -- or future owners -- wanted to tear down this slice of local history, they could.

As staff writer Elena Ferrarin reported Monday, Nathan and Philip Etter spoke at the village council meeting last week to urge members to create a historic preservation commission in Palatine.

While many homeowners might bristle at a historic designation that could limit their future options, the Etters are taking a longer view: They want to protect their home and others like it.

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And the village should, too.

The couple proposes a commission that would oversee a voluntary historic landmark program. Under the plan, owners of historic homes and buildings could seek out a local landmark designation, which would require permission to make architectural changes to the exteriors and prohibit owners from simply tearing them down.

Similar commissions are in place in Arlington Heights, Barrington, Naperville and other cities. The Etters point out that those suburbs have been able to preserve the quaint charm and history of older buildings while moving forward with vibrant downtowns.

Brittany Niequist, a member of Crystal Lake's historic preservation commission, says landmarking homes is about respecting the past while keeping an eye on the future.

"A lot of council members have this fear that by landmarking homes, somehow it's going to take away from the city or deter people from buying these properties," she said. "What I am seeing right now is this growing trend, especially among younger people who are purposely looking for historic homes to purchase."


Preservation, in other words, can exist with progress. Municipalities have a responsibility to protect both.

Palatine's village council has asked staff to research the Etters' request. It's a reasonable first step -- one that should be followed by careful consideration.

After all, once you've allowed a majestic, historic home to be reduced to rubble, there is no going back.

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