Historic Stevenson Home likely to be spared by state legislature's $1.1 million offer
The historic Adlai E. Stevenson Home in Mettawa likely has been saved from demolition after last-minute action by Lake County's state legislators.
The pending state budget approved by the House and Senate late Monday includes a $1.1 million grant to repair the home, owned and operated by the Lake County Forest Preserve District.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker is expected to sign the budget into law in coming days, virtually ensuring new life for the national historic landmark.
"This is great news. We are ecstatic and elated," Lake County Forest Preserve District board President Angelo Kyle said Tuesday.
Stevenson was a renowned statesman and former Illinois governor, U.N. ambassador and Democratic Party nominee for U.S. president in 1952 and 1956. He died in 1965. The home and property was donated to the forest district in 1974.
State legislators were acting in response to a letter from Kyle, who described Stevenson as a global leader and his home on St. Mary's Road south of Route 60 as a nationally significant resource.
"When I learned there was active discussion about demolishing the Stevenson house, I knew the Lake County delegation had to take this action. This was a group effort," said state Rep. Sam Yingling of Grayslake.
Forest preserve officials last week said $1.1 million in repairs are needed to keep the home and adjoining service building watertight. Given the expense and need for continuing maintenance, a long-term decision was needed, they said.
The district proposed spending up to $100,000 to create a preliminary master plan that would determine what to do next with the home and surrounding 40 acres. Demolition was among the options, a possibility supported by several forest district commissioners in the absence of outside funding for needed building upgrades.
"I think (the commissioners) felt that because we didn't have the money, that was the only alternative," Kyle said.
As the legislative session ticked down over the weekend, funding for the Stevenson work was included in the budget at the request of the six Democratic lawmakers who represent portions of Lake County: Yingling, Rep. Jonathan Carroll of Northbrook, Rep. Daniel Didech of Buffalo Grove, Rep. Joyce Mason of Gurnee, Rep. Rita Mayfield of Waukegan and Rep. Bob Morgan of Deerfield.
"I'm thrilled," Commissioner Ann Maine, a Republican from Lincolnshire, said Tuesday.
During a tour and presentation last week, Maine rejected demolition, saying there was something "incredibly moving" about being in a place where history has been made. The home is in Maine's district, but she said she would have had the same stance even if it wasn't.
"Sometimes, it's worth it even if you think it's a lost cause to speak your voice," she said.
In a letter to House Speaker Chris Welch seeking funding, the six Lake County legislators said repairing the home would benefit everyone in Illinois who values it as an educational resource.
"As one of just two National Historic Landmarks located in Lake County, the Stevenson Home serves as an irreplaceable monument to one of the most significant figures in the history of Illinois," they wrote to Welch.
Rep. Dan Didech of Buffalo Grove, whose district includes the Stevenson Home, said the delegation was able to act quickly to secure funding for one of Lake County's "most significant an irreplaceable historic buildings."
Stevenson welcomed high-powered guests to the home, including John F. Kennedy, and crafted books and speeches at the rural retreat known as "The Farm."
"It's important to recognize that Adlai Stevenson was such a prominent figure not only in the state but nationally," Yingling said.
The forest board June 8 will consider a 2022 capital budget, which includes funding for the master plan. It wasn't immediately known Tuesday if or how that might change as a result of the state grant.