Forest preserve panel to explore ideas for historic barn near Naperville
A panel is being formed to explore possible public uses for a historic barn near Naperville that belongs to the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County.
The Greene Farm barn and an adjacent farmhouse have stood unused for decades at the intersection of Greene and Hobson roads.
The district originally planned to use the Greene Farm 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.
Last week, forest preserve President Joe Cantore announced the creation of an ad hoc committee to recommend the best public use for the barn "that aligns with the district's mission and master plan goals and objectives."
"Hopefully, this committee will include a blend of perspectives and expertise that will craft a wonderful vision for the future of the Greene Farm barn," Cantore said in a statement.
Nearly a dozen people already are seeking appointment to the committee, officials said, and the deadline to apply is midnight Tuesday.
Officials say the committee will be asked to identify partnerships, funding sources and potential revenues. It also will be asked to analyze development, operations and maintenance costs.
On Monday, forest preserve Commissioner Mary Lou Wehrli, who long has wanted to find a use for the barn, said she's pleased with the panel.
"It shows he (Cantore) is taking leadership on one of the valued assets in the district," said Wehrli, who lives in Naperville. "It shows that he also values public opinion. Since the interest is there, he's providing a structure for that."
Acting on her own, Wehrli in recent months has hosted meetings with residents to gather ideas for how the 14,000-square-foot structure could be used.
Since the district already spent roughly $1.2 million to stabilize the barn in 2012, Wehrli said residents want to see it "be more than a picture on the landscape."
Still, she acknowledges that finding a public use is going to require a lot of work.
"You have to explore partnerships and identify costs and management," Wehrli said. "There's just a lot to do."
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 district acquired the farmhouse -- known as Oak Cottage -- and the barn in 1971.
In 2016, it 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 for use by the public. They also said it wouldn't be possible to raise that kind of money without help from an outside group.
Anyone interested in serving on the ad hoc committee has until midnight Tuesday to email their statements of interest and qualifications to Tony Martinez, director of communications and marketing, at firstname.lastname@example.org.