High repair, maintenance cost could spell end of Adlai E. Stevenson II Historic Home site

Future of Stevenson home in limbo until master plan is created

A decision about the future of the Adlai E. Stevenson II Historic Home in Mettawa will be put on hold until a master plan is created for the 40-acre site on St. Mary's Road south of Route 60.

The Lake County Forest Preserve District, which owns the property, also will delay applying for $1.1 million in funding included in the state budget for maintenance, renovation and improvements to the home and adjoining service building.

That was the majority consensus of two forest board committees that considered the issue Monday. A third committee will discuss the matter Thursday. But because it's a policy direction, an official vote of the full board isn't needed.

In any scenario, maintaining the legacy of the renowned statesman would be addressed in some fashion. What that will entail is to be determined.

Stevenson was a former Illinois governor, U.N. ambassador and Democratic Party nominee for president in 1952 and 1956.

"We need to have the master plan and have options," said Ann Maine, a member of the operations committee. "There's too many unknowns to be applying for a grant."

A master plan would outline potential uses for the property stretching east from the Des Plaines River. But given the need for extensive repairs and ongoing maintenance, it seems unlikely Stevenson's country home will remain on what was known as "The Farm."

Executive Director Ty Kovach said the district has put $2.1 million into the facilities over the past 20 years.

"What does it mean in the long-term if we keep it?" he said. "It's going to be an enormous number."

The home and property were donated to the district in 1974. How best to deal with the structures has been a consideration since bids for exterior renovations were sought in October 2019.

With the low bid well over the $500,000 estimate, staff in March 2020 was directed to determine if any grants were available to pay for part or all of the cost to repair the national historic landmark.

The bidder agreed to extend the offer but no grant opportunities were found and the bid expired with no action taken.

Discussion resurfaced in May 2021, when the joint forest preserve board committees met at the site. Renovations at the time for the home were estimated to have risen to $700,000 with another $400,000 needed to renovate the exterior of the service building.

No further analysis of the buildings has been done since. The buildings have continued to deteriorate and the cost to address them is anticipated to have increased in the interim.

A coalition of Lake County legislators secured the $1.1 million funding last June. But the invitation to apply for the grant wasn't offered until February.

As it is unknown whether the funds could be used for anything besides repairs and because the grant will be available for some time, the direction at this point is to skip the application. Applying now would be committing to long-term ownership and maintenance of the two buildings, commissioners were told.

Assuming demolition of the buildings, a master plan would outline potential alterative uses for the property, such as a connection to the neighboring Captain Daniel Wright Woods forest preserve.

The board last year approved $100,000 in capital funds for a master plan.

One early suggestion would be to re-create the home's office and library, where Stevenson met with world dignitaries, at the district's Dunn Museum.

"That certainly would be trying to maintain the heart of the estate," said forest board President Angelo Kyle.

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  John Nelson, Lake County Forest Preserve District director of operations and infrastructure, explains the condition of the Adlai E. Stevenson Historic Home to forest commissioners last May. Mick Zawislak/, 2021
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