With demolition imminent, Lake County officials say farewell to the Winchester House

  • Lake County Board Chair Sandy Hart, at podium, addresses well-wishers Monday during a farewell event for the former county-run Winchester House skilled nursing facility in Libertyville. The facility will be demolished over the weeks ahead.

    Lake County Board Chair Sandy Hart, at podium, addresses well-wishers Monday during a farewell event for the former county-run Winchester House skilled nursing facility in Libertyville. The facility will be demolished over the weeks ahead. Mick Zawislak | Staff Photographer

  • Demolition equipment is parked at the former Winchester House skilled nursing facility in Libertyville. The buildings will be razed and the site at Winchester Road and Milwaukee Avenue in Libertyville cleared within 120 days.

    Demolition equipment is parked at the former Winchester House skilled nursing facility in Libertyville. The buildings will be razed and the site at Winchester Road and Milwaukee Avenue in Libertyville cleared within 120 days. Mick Zawislak | Staff Photographer

  • The former Winchester House skilled nursing home in Libertyville. After more than eight decades of serving the county's elderly and vulnerable populations, the facility is being torn down.

    The former Winchester House skilled nursing home in Libertyville. After more than eight decades of serving the county's elderly and vulnerable populations, the facility is being torn down. Mick Zawislak | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 8/31/2021 8:28 AM

The buildings have been empty more than a year, but with demolition imminent, friends of the Winchester House nursing facility bid farewell Monday to a Lake County landmark.

While the prominent structures at Winchester Road and Milwaukee Avenue in Libertyville soon will be removed, it was the caregivers and their work behind the walls that were honored Monday.

 

For generations, the county-run facility provided 24/7 skilled nursing, rehab services, and care for those with Alzheimer's disease and related illnesses.

"These two buildings are what people notice on the outside," Lake County Board Chair Sandy Hart said during a ceremonial send-off attended by about 60 well-wishers and others involved with the facility. "But it's the care and compassion that took place on the inside of these buildings that really made Winchester House a special place."

With demolition equipment parked nearby, Hart was joined by colleagues and special guests near an entrance.

"The building will go (but) the mission won't go away," said Julie Mayer, who served on the Winchester House advisory board. The panel was formed about 14 years ago to study other options for providing care, as Winchester House was losing about $7 million a year and its population shrinking.

Ultimately, the county got out of the nursing home business. In July 2020, Winchester House residents were transferred to a new facility built as a replacement near Route 45 and Route 83 in Mundelein.

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"It's important for us to remember the countless acts of kindness that happened here," said Michael Knight, an advisory board member and member of Lake County United, a faith-based organization. "This was a home and not an institution."

What eventually became Winchester House was established in 1847 as the Lake County Poor Farm to feed and shelter the county's most vulnerable residents.

A new structure was built and, after a nursing license was secured, the facility was renamed the Lake County Nursing Home. The main facility is two buildings, one built in the 1940s and one in 1974.

The county board earlier this month approved a $2.75 million contract with McDonagh Demolition Inc. of Chicago to raze the buildings and clear the site. Asbestos is being removed in advance of the cranes, backhoes and bulldozers digging in. The work is expected to be substantially complete in 120 days.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

There are no plans for the cleared site.

Hart said Winchester House for many was their last home and a place where families came to say goodbye.

"These buildings will always hold a sentimental value to the residents and the caring individuals who provided care for them," she said.

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