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Forest Preserve moves forward with McKee House study

Published: Friday, July 5, 2013 12:30 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, July 5, 2013 12:32 p.m. CDT

GLEN ELLYN – The DuPage County Forest Preserve District will soon know the feasibility of restoring the historic McKee House in Churchill Woods and costs associated with the work, thanks to the approval of an architectural study for the house.

The district's board of commissioners voted to grant a $43,200 contract with AltusWorks of Chicago for the study, using funds originally set aside for demolition of the McKee House.

For some community members, it's been a long fight against demolition of the house, and they're glad to see a step in the opposite direction.

"I think this vote is the first step toward something positive for this building," said Linda Gilbert, a former president of Citizens for Glen Ellyn Preservation.

In 2006, when the Forest Preserve District first considered demolishing the McKee House, the Citizens for Glen Ellyn Preservation became involved in an effort to save the house, even though the structure technically sat in unincorporated Lombard.

Since then, the boundaries between Lombard and Glen Ellyn have been redrawn and the McKee House is now part of unincorporated Glen Ellyn.

The house has a long history in the community, serving as the former Forest Preserve District headquarters. It was built in 1936 and named after the first district superintendent who lived there, Robert McKee.

The structure was used by the public throughout the years and preservationists in the area hope it will again return to its community-centered roots.

However, the McKee House has sat vacant and unattended for the last 10 years. It now has a damaged roof, among other issues.

Citizens for Glen Ellyn Preservation has been able to set aside some funds for roof work, but it has been difficult to fundraise without a commitment from the Forest Preserve District to save the house, Gilbert said.

With the approval of the contract with AltusWorks, the commissioners have committed to see what can be done.

Tim Whelan, the commissioner who represents District Four of the Forest Preserve – where the McKee House sits – said he was pleased President D. “Dewey” Pierotti and other commissioners were willing to look into preserving the home.

The study, which is expected to take three to four months, will determine whether the building is structurally sound and identify the steps needed to restore the building to use, Whelan said. This would include evaluating costs associated with the work and dividing the restoration into phases, he added.

"I am cautiously confident because of what I think the study will show," Whelan said regarding the ability to save the McKee House.

Depending on the study's results, a nonprofit may form to fundraise for the restoration.

The nonprofit would most likely include members of Citizens for Glen Ellyn Preservation and other groups and individuals who have shown interest in saving the house.

One person who has followed the McKee House saga is Paula McGowen of Glen Ellyn.

After becoming involved with the preservation efforts herself when the new board of commissioners was seated, McGowen attended the board's July 2 meeting when commissioners unanimously voted to approve the study contract with AltusWorks.

"I think it's the responsibility of the Forest Preserve to keep these historical buildings intact," McGowen said.

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