GLEN ELLYN – The village of Glen Ellyn will start leasing the 82-year-old McKee House sooner than anticipated to help preservationists raise money to restore the landmark building.
At their March 6 meeting, commissioners with the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County approved changes in the lease agreement between the district and the village. Originally, the village was to start leasing the McKee House on April 1, 2019, for a 50-year term as part of an agreement between the two bodies that was approved in May 2017.
As part of the changes in the agreement, Glen Ellyn will now take possession of the McKee House immediately. The village also will be leasing the adjacent maintenance building property.
"The McKee Preservation Group is in the process of doing fundraising," said forest preserve commissioner Tim Whelan, who has been involved in the preservation efforts, during a discussion of the change at the Board of Commissioners' Feb. 27 planning session. "And it's real hard to raise funds when you say, 'Well, we'll have possession in about two years.' It makes it far better to raise money when you have a viable, marketable product."
Another change in the lease agreement will allow the village to make certain improvements to the McKee House property without written permission of the district.
Members of the McKee Preservation Group have the goal of raising $65,000 this spring for a much-needed roof for the 82-year-old McKee House in the Churchill Woods Forest Preserve as part of an effort to preserve and restore the historic limestone building.
"At this point, one of the most important things we can do with regard to the preservation of the house is to get the roof replaced to stabilize it," McKee Preservation Group Inc. board member Roberta Wheatley of Glen Ellyn previously said. "The house structurally is perfectly sound, but with the roof being a problem, our initial goal is to raise $65,000 to replace the roof and to do a restoration of the entry door. The first phase is to get the building stabilized, and then the next phase will be to do interior work."
Wheatley said there is great interest in restoring the building and noted it could be used for a variety of purposes.
"This could be a focal point in that preserve," she said.
The McKee House was built in 1936 as a Works Progress Administration project. The WPA program was a federal assistance program designed to put unemployed Americans back to work during the Great Depression.
It originally functioned as a forest preserve headquarters and Superintendent Robert McKee’s residence in the Churchill Woods Forest Preserve. The house has been vacant since 2002. District staff members had recommended the building be razed because of the high cost to repair it.
Last year, the nonprofit group Landmarks Illinois announced the inclusion of the McKee House on its 2017 list of the most endangered historic places in Illinois.
Glen Ellyn Village Manager Mark Franz previously told village trustees the maintenance property – which consists of two attached buildings – could be used to meet the village's salt and general storage needs. The agreement states if the village or a third party is not able to raise $400,000 by Oct. 1, 2019, and restore and get an occupancy permit by Oct. 1, 2022, Glen Ellyn will demolish the property at its own expense.
The village and Forest Preserve District will contribute $25,000 each to help in the restoration efforts if sufficient funds are raised, the agreement states.
The cost to raze the McKee House is estimated to be between $30,000 and $50,000. The cost to stabilize the house is estimated to be $230,000, and renovating the structure is estimated to cost anywhere from $1.3 million to $2 million.
The property is located within the village limits of Lombard. Glen Ellyn plans to annex the property by April 1, 2019.
How to help
Contributions to McKee Preservation Group Inc. are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law. Donations can be sent to P.O. Box 44, Glen Ellyn, IL 60138. More information is available on the group's Facebook page. The group also is seeking volunteers. Those who would like to help can contact the group by email at email@example.com.