Saving historic Adlai E. Stevenson II home on forest district's 2022 to-do list
With a $1.1 million state grant now expected, the Lake County Forest Preserve District is putting repairs to save the Adlai E. Stevenson II Historic Home in Mettawa on its 2022 to-do list.
State legislators from Lake County helped the district obtain the grant, as demolition of the national historic landmark that's owned and operated by the forest preserve district surfaced as a possibility.
The money was designated specifically for work on the renowned statesman's 40-acre country retreat off St. Mary's Road and included in the state budget. Now, the district is awaiting instructions on how to get the money.
"I'm not sure what the process is," Executive Director Ty Kovach said. "We're just waiting for the new year and will figure out how we apply."
State Rep. Sam Yingling of Grayslake said the paperwork will be available early next year.
"The funds will be available in short order," he said.
All six members of the Lake County state House Democratic delegation made the last-minute request for the $1.1 million in response to a plea from forest preserve district board President Angelo Kyle.
Kyle noted Stevenson was a global leader and his home south of Route 60 is a nationally significant resource that needs to be preserved.
In asking for the funds, the state lawmakers described the property as an "irreplaceable monument to one of the most significant figures in the history of Illinois."
Stevenson was an Illinois governor, U.N. ambassador and Democratic Party nominee for president in 1952 and 1956. His home and property stretching to the Des Plaines River was donated to the forest district in 1974.
District officials say $1.1 million in repairs are needed to keep the home and adjoining service building watertight. Given that expense and the need for continuing maintenance, the forest board faced a long-term decision this year between investing significantly in the repairs or tearing down the structure.
While the building may have been spared, there still will be decisions to be made.
"We did leave money in our budget for master planning because we weren't sure if the grant would be coming," Kovach said. "I'm not quite sure if they (forest preserve commissioners) want us to look at it long-term."
Yingling joined fellow state Reps. Daniel Didech of Buffalo Grove, Joyce Mason of Gurnee and Bob Morgan of Deerfield on a tour of the Steveson property last week.
The tour was "to see firsthand and to connect with the property and appreciate the significance of the investment," Yingling said.
"I think many people in Lake County are unaware this site exists in their backyard," he said.
Yingling said a Rolodex in Stevenson's study, which features a "Who's Who" of contacts like Lauren Bacall, Jackie Kennedy and Eleanor Roosevelt, was "unbelievably fascinating," and Stevenson's U.N. chair was "incredibly impactful."
"There is an enormous amount to see at the house and also on the grounds," he said.
The grounds are open year-round and include outdoor exhibits about the Stevenson family and their use of the home and property, said Andrew Osborne, the forest preserve district's superintendent of educational facilities.
The home and service building are closed for winter and will reopen to the public in April. Reservations for guided tours are available year-round for high schools and community groups by calling (847) 968-3422.
The home also is leased by the Adlai Stevenson Center on Democracy for educational programs, special events and activities.