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 12 meeting, village trustees approved changes in the least agreement between the village and the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County. 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. Forest Preserve District of DuPage County commissioners approved the changes at their March 6 meeting.
"The McKee Preservation Group is in the process of doing fundraising," forest preserve commissioner Tim Whelan said 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 McKee Preservation Group Inc. have the goal of raising $65,000 this spring for a much-needed roof for the historic house in the Churchill Woods Forest Preserve, as part of an effort to preserve and restore the 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 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.