Demolition nears for former Winchester House nursing home in Libertyville

Winchester House, the former Lake County-run nursing home that has been a prominent part of the landscape along Milwaukee Avenue in Libertyville for nearly 80 years, will be coming down.

The Lake County Board on Tuesday is expected to approve a $2.75 million contract with McDonagh Demolition Inc., of Chicago, to demolish the buildings and restore the site on the northwest corner of Milwaukee Avenue and Winchester Road.

If approved, McDonagh would receive notice by the end of the day to proceed with work, anticipated to begin shortly after.

The contract calls for the main structure and satellite buildings to be demolished, asbestos abated, in-ground infrastructure removed, and the site graded and replanted. Work is required to be substantially complete within four months.

The county board last year approved the removal of Winchester House as part of a 2021 project list. The main facility is two structures: The first was built in the 1940s, and a taller second building added in 1974.

Those buildings are what most people in the area remember. But the legacy dates to 1847, when Lake County opened a poor farm that evolved into a long-term, 24-hour skilled nursing facility.

The county got out of the nursing home business because of decreasing use, dwindling revenue and a substantial deficit.

In July 2020, remaining Winchester House residents were transferred to Thrive of Lake County, a state-licensed facility built as a replacement on a former golf driving range at Route 45 near Route 83 in Mundelein.

Lake County determined it was too costly to re-use or repurpose Winchester House, and its removal has been eagerly awaited. The county board's financial and administrative committee Thursday recommended approval of the McDonagh contract.

"Is there any interest from the members to take the first sledgehammer swing?" asked Carl Kirar, the county's director of facilities and construction.

"I think you may get more than 21 people interested in that," responded committee Chair Paul Frank. There are 21 county board members.

Committee member Jennifer Clark, whose district includes the Winchester House site, said it's a big project that has been a long time coming.

Clark said she's fielded a lot of questions of what will happen with the site.

"The answer right now is nothing," she said after the meeting. "It's going to be a natural open space area and it will stay like that for the foreseeable future."

Winchester House is part of Lake County's expansive campus of facilities in Libertyville, but the future of the site has not been determined.

Also on Tuesday, the county board is expected to approve a $36,603 contract with CDW Government for hardware and electronics to bypass fiber optic cabling beneath a building on the Winchester House site that ties public works and transportation into the county network.

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  The Lake County Board will be considering a contract to demolish the former Winchester House skilled nursing facility at Milwaukee Avenue and Winchester Road in Libertyville, Mick Zawislak/
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