New plan to save Loretto mansion: Move it to south edge of Wheaton property
The final chapter in the saga to save a Wheaton mansion from demolition could play out this month at a city council public hearing.
A couple hoping to turn the House of Seven Gables into a dream home for their family of six now want to move the 1890s-era structure to the southern edge of the Loretto Convent campus. The council is set to consider their revised request at the July 24 hearing.
Developers of the campus planned to tear down the Jarvis Hunt-designed mansion to make way for a subdivision of upscale homes for empty nesters and retirees.
But Bob and Katy Goldsborough, ardent fans of the home's 19th-century architect, stepped up in the eleventh hour to acquire the mansion for $100 as a last resort in their quest to preserve the 10,000-square-foot structure.
The husband and wife initially applied for a city special-use permit to move the mansion to two subdivision lots on the northeast side of the remote site, where Hawthorne Lane currently dead-ends.
But the Goldsboroughs withdrew that permit application and submitted a new one last week after neighbors raised concerns. They're now trying to position the house on subdivision lots that are farther away from neighbors than where the mansion would have stood.
The Goldsboroughs have reached a contract to buy the lots from Pulte Homes, the developers of the nearly 16-acre Loretto property. That means the number of homes in the Pulte subdivision, called the Loretto Club, would drop from 48 to 46 at 1600 Somerset Lane.
"We're working really hard with them to try to make this happen," Katy Goldsborough said last month.
She did not return phone calls or Facebook messages seeking further comment Monday.
The city council could vote to award the permit as early as Aug. 7. But then the Goldsboroughs would have to brace for a long and technically difficult moving day.
It's also expensive. Relocating the mansion in one piece would cost the couple about $235,000.
Crews from Wolfe House & Building Movers, the firm hired by the Goldsboroughs, already have prepared for the job. After lifting the two-story, brick mansion through a hydraulic jacking system, movers can now pinpoint their load at roughly 600 tons, said Andrew Wolfe, one of the firm's owners.
"It's a good, old house still," Wolfe said last week.
He says movers could move the mansion about 300 to 500 feet at the end August, should the council give the go-ahead.
The Goldsboroughs once envisioned the mansion as a public venue and made an offer to the park district to front the moving costs as part of an ill-fated plan to restore the house as a wedding and banquet facility at nearby Seven Gables Park.
But park commissioners decided in late May not to pursue the project, citing financial and accessibility concerns. That undertaking would have required raising about $1.2 million in donations and pledges.
The house is a relic of an era of luxury. Steel magnate Jay Morris commissioned Hunt to design the home for his daughter.
The mansion's prominent features include a gabled slate roof, ornate wood carvings and painted beams.
Hunt also designed the nearby Chicago Golf clubhouse and Loramoor estate in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.