Contract to renovate historic Adlai E. Stevenson home delayed as bids exceed budget

  • The Adlai E. Stevenson Historic Home near Mettawa was donated to the Lake County Forest Preserve District in 1974. The exterior was last renovated in 2004-2005 and needs work, forest officials say.

    The Adlai E. Stevenson Historic Home near Mettawa was donated to the Lake County Forest Preserve District in 1974. The exterior was last renovated in 2004-2005 and needs work, forest officials say. Daily Herald file photo, 2009

 
 
Updated 2/10/2020 5:02 PM

Action on a contract to renovate the exterior of the Adlai E. Stevenson Historic Home near Mettawa has been delayed as its owner, the Lake County Forest Preserve District, looks for ways to help defray the cost.

The district has set aside $550,000 in its capital budget to remove and replace the wood siding and all the windows, among other work, at the home off St. Mary's Road south of Route 60 on the east side of the Des Plaines River.

 

The full board had been expected to vote on a contract Tuesday. But the lowest responsible bid is $597,838 and its finance committee last week tabled the matter until March 7.

The forest district staff was directed "to try to find grant money and try to find folks to take over the property," said committee Chair Terry Wilke.

Finding an entity to do that is "highly unlikely" Wilke acknowledged but a check of available grant opportunities to help offset renovation costs is worth the effort.

"It wasn't because of anything to do with the need for repairs," Katherine Hamilton-Smith, the district's director of public affairs and development said of the tabled bid.

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The delay also will allow time to include the Stevenson house in a review of all forest board facilities, he added. That was last done in 2015 with buildings categorized as to if, how long or under what circumstances they would be kept.

Stevenson, a former Illinois governor and U.N. ambassador, was the Democratic Party nominee for U.S. president in 1952 and 1956. He was a revered statesman who crafted many speeches, articles and books and met with dignitaries including Eleanor Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy at his rural retreat known as "The Farm."

Stevenson died in 1965 and the house and property was sold to a family friend in 1969. The estate was donated to the forest preserve district in 1974.

The house is open for scheduled programs and tours. The Adlai Stevenson Center on Democracy, which has a license agreement with the forest preserve district, holds events there.

Exhibits and public restrooms are available in a barn and attached building near the house. That's open from April to October for self-guided tours but is not included in the planned exterior renovations.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The house was designed by Chicago architects Perkins, Wheeler and Will and built in 1938 in a modern style that featured clean lines. The last major restoration of the home's exterior was done in 2004-05 and the condition has deteriorated and last year, plans and specifications for renovations were prepared.

In addition to replacing the siding and windows, work includes removal and replacement of the flat roof sections; replacing damaged exterior and interior plaster ceilings; tuckpointing chimneys; and, repairing the concrete wall and stair leading to the basement.

The work is intended to last 25 years and make the building watertight.

Action 1 Construction Inc., of Chicago submitted the lowest bid at $425,000. But it was considered nonresponsive because the bid did not comply with insurance and bond requirements and district staff recommended it be rejected. The next lowest bid is $597,838 from Workmasters Inc., of Des Plaines.

The Stevenson estate is a designated Illinois Historic Site and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The home was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2014.

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