Residents who turned out Wednesday night for an update about the Harley Clarke mansion on the Evanston lakefront were told by a leader of the non-profit that seeks to lease the building from the city that ongoing fundraising efforts will be needed to cover projected operating income shortfalls.

Tom Hodgman of Evanston Lakehouse & Gardens said the group anticipates over $300,000 in annual revenue from renting the building for events and operation of a planned cafe in the building.

It projects expenses of well over $400,000 — with about 60 percent going to pay a three-person staff and the rest to utilities, maintenance and other costs.

The Lakehouse group’s plans also anticipate initial start-up costs in the vicinity of $5 million — with most of that going to rehab work on the mansion and about a tenth designated to start an endowment for future costs.

The group, which hopes to run environmental education and recreation programs at the mansion, has been conducting an online fundraising campaign from its website for the past 10 months and so far has raised $5,441 from 52 donors.

The group hopes to persuade the City Council to give it a long-term lease on the mansion at no charge.

Update 11:50 a.m. 4/27/17: In an interview this morning, Alderman Eleanor Revelle, 7th Ward, said she plans to bring a proposal for next steps on the mansion to the City Council in June.

She said it would likely involve asking that the city manager negotiate an agreement with the Lakehouse group that would set fundraising goals for the group over perhaps a two year period, and if those goals were met the city would agree to lease the property to the group.

Revelle said that she hoped that during that interim period the group would be able to conduct some of its planned environmental education programs in the fog houses on the lighthouse site adjacent to the mansion. Those buildings are currently being repaired by the city for use in recreation programs this summer.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Caveat Emptor

    Before our community “buys” into any proposal, I would hope that each proposal is thoroughly scrutinized. While I didn’t attend this meeting, I do have some questions per this article: 1. Annual expenses of over $400,000, but projected revenues of only over $300,000 ?? hmmm This doesn’t appear to be sustainable unless they are assuming the City of Evanston is willing to make a hefty annual payment, else there will be significant annual fundraising required. And what are they assuming the annual upkeep and maintenance costs will be on this old building? Anyone in Evanston who owns an older home knows it’s inevitable something breaks and needs to get fixed and this is VERY expensive. Is this budgeted? 2. Start up costs of $5 million? How did they arrive at that number? What are they assuming and what are they excluding? Assumptions can be “flexible” and “biased” in order to make any project look more feasible. 3. Environmental education? why duplicate the outstanding work already being done by the Evanston Ecology Center? I am a strong proponent of our environment, but do we really need and can we afford to fund another program? TP

    1. Meetings are held to inform

      “While I didn’t attend this meeting” If you had, you would have had answers to the questions you ask. It was an impressive presentation that reflected much thought and effort into the entire project. Judging by the crowd, this proposal with be enthusiastically supported by the residents of Evanston. I know I do.

      1. The crowd I see isn’t Evanston

        John, the crowd i see in the photo is very white and elderly, and doesn’t appear to represent the diversity of Evanston. From your perspective, what are the answers to the questions and issues i raised. Our community should be in the fact finding stage, and not be steamrolled by any one proposal.

        My apologies for not being able to attend the meeting but I was in Dallas and Houston for the last 3 days on business. Many other people who live in Evanston and work, also have fairly demanding travel schedules and cannot physically attend meetings. Does our voice count any less? Thank you.


  2. That’s Govt For You

    $400K for expenses? I assume that’s per year. Outrageous and typical of government unable to control expenses. Many functions of that 3 person staff can be automated. Hire a kid to mow the grass.

    1. Not gummint

      Hi Arnth01,

      This proposal is from the private non-profit sector, not government.

      — Bill

  3. Clarke mansion
    Please put demo of this albatross on the agenda. Parking will NEVER be solved for any significant public or private use.

Leave a comment
The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *