Forest preserve seeking ideas for historic barn near Naperville
A historic farmhouse and barn have stood unused for decades at the intersection of Greene and Hobson roads near Naperville.
Originally, it was understood that the property -- the Greene Farm -- would be used for cultural, educational, historical and recreation purposes. So far, though, it's only been an aesthetic feature for people using the trails at Greene Valley Forest Preserve.
That may be about to change.
The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, which owns the property, is seeking ideas from the public about ways to use the barn. Residents can share their ideas during an open house from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, June 16, at the site.
Commissioner Mary Lou Wehrli and a group of volunteers will be on hand to hear ideas about potential community-led initiatives for the barn.
"The timing seemed right to invite the public for a two-hour window to look inside the barn," Wehrli said Tuesday. "Because nothing will trigger more inspiration than seeing the magnificence of this timber-frame building."
The central portion of the farmhouse was built for William Briggs Greene in 1850, although the exact date of the barn's construction is unknown. Considered the largest barn in DuPage, the L-shaped structure included a corn crib, wagon shed, granary and animal pens.
The forest preserve acquired the farmhouse and barn in the 1970s.
In 2012, the district spent more than $1 million to stabilize the barn, including work to replace the main floor structure and roof.
"That kind of an investment for a feature on the landscape seems a little excessive," Wehrli said.
She said the building is strong, has a unique location and could "provide something that we're not providing as a district right now."
Two years ago, the district spent roughly $26,400 to repair the barn and set aside up to $34,400 a year for maintenance.
But at the time, officials said it would cost millions to renovate the farmhouse and barn so they could be used by the public. They also said it wouldn't be possible to raise that kind of money without help from an outside group.
Still, Wehrli wants to know what the public has to say.
"Whatever suggestions come, it's only to capture ideas," she said. "It's also to identify potential partnerships and management opportunities should the barn attract funding."
Forest preserve President Joseph Cantore said in a statement that the barn is a beautiful and historic place. "I am interested to hear from the community about their ideas for the potential use of the barn and how it could complement the mission of the district," he said.
After getting public feedback, Wehrli said a report will be presented to the forest preserve board by October.