A community meeting on a possible new use for the Harley Clarke mansion on the Evanston lakefront is planned for 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 26, in the Parasol Room at the Civic Center.

Last September, the City Council directed the Parks, Recreation and Community Services Board and the Lighthouse Landing Complex Committee to develop a plan for the future operation of the Harley Clarke property.

A planning committee with members of the two groups has been meeting monthly since November with interested residents to discuss proposals for the property.

The committee has focused on the proposal for an environmental education center developed by Evanston Lakehouse and Gardens.

The April 26 meeting will feature a presentation about the proposed environmental education center and the financial plan behind it and seek community input about the proposal.

Join the Conversation


  1. Isn’t it Ironic…

    That the meeting on Harley Clarke is not able to be held in the Harley Clarke Mansion. How can it be that a space that many community members want to be a community meeting space is not able to be a community meeting space?!? Is the Mansion in such a state of disrepair that it is unsafe to enter? People discuss Harley Clarke like it is a hallowed public space, but right now the public is not welcome!

    1. That is the way it has been

      Harley Clarke has been that way for many years. The EAC always claimed that they didn’t have the money to fulfill it’s part of their long held lease agreement with the city. They left the most of the interior of the building of the building in ruins for years while the city government looked the other way. 

      Remember this: The Harley Clarke mansion and it’s land is not a park and has never been part of a park. If it were, the city could have use the locale park district’s funds to keep the mansion’s interior in good condition.

      This looks like a plan to add additional tax burden on all of Evanston taxpayers. This will probably add additional Evanston employees with payroll, benefits, and pension burdens on the city.

      Sell the mansion and the land. Make it a tax assist to the city, instead of a tax burden to the taxpayers.

    2. The Harley Clarke Mansion belongs to all of us!

      The Harley Clarke Mansion is not in such disrepair that folks can’t meet there. Last August, the Evanston Lake House & Gardens group toured the mansion.

      “This is in wonderful condition for having been vacated for over a year,” said Bonnie McDonald, president of Landmarks Illinois, a state preservation group, among the visitors. “The building has good bones, as our engineers say.”

      Yes, and not long ago the Evanston Arts Center operated there, holding classes. People can go inside. Makes you wonder why the city is not holding the meeting at the mansion.

      The Evanston Lake House & Gardens is a volunteer group of community members that has already rasied six figures in donations to preserve the mansion and use it as a multi-purpose venue for environmental education, community events, and cultural programming. For those who whine that the mansion will cost the city more money don’t realize the unique value it has.

      The Lighthosue Beach is all of ours and the most attractive beachfront area in Evanston and arguably all of the North Shore. There is so much potential there for city use – a restaurant in the winter, outdoor dining, weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, etc.

      The mansion may not technically be part of the “park” but it is certainly directly connected to the Lighthouse Beach and the city.  All Evanstonians own it!

      Do not sell it!

      1. Keep Raising the Money

        The private group that wants to save this money pit should stay at it. Going to be seven figures to restore it to anything worthwhile and create an endowment for upkeep.

  2. Harley Clarke Feedback

    Someone should look into the Wilder Mansion, 211 Prospect Avenue, in Elmhurst.  It is part of the Elmhurst Park District and formerly housed the Elmhurst Public Library.  It is now used as a rental facility for events like weddings, bridal/baby showers, meetings, etc.  It is a beautiful facility.  I recently attended an event there and thought how perfect it would be if Harley-Clarke could be used in the same way.  It would provide an even more perfect setting as a venue with the lakefront view and generate revenue for the City of Evanston.  More info on the Wilder Mansion is at http://www.wildermansion.org/.

  3. How much revenue lost ?

    Say for the last 20 years, how much property and tax income from a business [hotel, B&B] has been lost to this disaster ? The Evanston snobs and ‘artsy’ crowd [by no means different groups], have kept this dump alive and bleeding loses—and the Council has defended them ! All the while Evanston taxes go up and taxpayers bear the burden. How about the groups mentioned buy the place, pay taxes at same rate as property owners and then do with it whatever they want. People complain about NU, ENH and churches not paying property tax—well at least they have a business that brings in lots of people and does some good,

  4. This seems to indicate what

    This seems to indicate what Harley-Clarke lacks — a large-enough space for group meetings or even small events.  Also it lacks public transportation and enough parking without giving up present park land.

    1. It IS served by public transportation
      Actually, the CTA’s No. 201 bus that connects the Howard Street station with downtown Evanston and Old Orchard, stops nearby at Central Street and Sheridan Road.

    2. Parking

      Parking for the mansion could be added to the South and West of the mansion. Both areas are not part of the nearby park and could accommodate probably 50 more cars. They could meter the cars to help pay for this happening, Thechnically, the existing parking is also part of the mansion and not part of the park. The same could be done there. That is parking for about 70 cars. Rental space for the services and other events should cover maintenance and utilities. Any other expenses will need to be covered by donations.

      This should leave taxpayers off the hook.

      If it doesn’t work out the city can either sell the mansion and it’s land and start making tax dollars or tear it down, sell the bricks (for another project on Howard), and turn all into park land.

      Whatever is done, it is time that the city did something for the taxpayers instead of something to the taxpayers.

  5. Charge $20 for mansion tours

    If the city won’t sell it to a profit making organization so the taxpayers don’t have to finance this ‘money pit’, charge those who think it so ‘historic’ $20 to tour it. If those fees don’t pay for its expense, then we will know if it has any value and tear it down if not.

    1. Harley Clarke Upkeep

      For many years, I was on the board and an officer for the Evanston Art Center when it was housed in Harley Clarke.  Hundreds of school-age young people and adults streamed through that building, every week.

      The EAC agreement with the City called for token rent to the City because EAC provided, for free, service to the City including free after-school classes IN THE SCHOOLS as District 65 said the District couldn’t afford arts education — too costly.

      The EAC stepped to ensure that Evanston students could continue

      1. Charging versus Scholarships
        EAC like most government [Social Security, Welfare, Health, school lunch programs and such] seems to hold to the ‘shotgun versus rifle’ approach, i.e. ‘we don’t know how to address the problem(s), so we will just give money to everyone.’
        Instead of figuring out who really has a need, they just give money out.
        EAC uses the excuse that they provide access to poor children, so they should pay only token rent !
        Churches have camps and summer school and such for which they charge. But for those in need they have ‘scholarships.’ Instead of just providing everything for free [including to the wealthy] they find who really needs the help. That is called ‘good stewardship’ —something government seems completely ignorant of.

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