The Evanston History Center broke ground this morning for the first stage of a major restoration of its headquarters — the Charles Gates Dawes House.

History Center Director Eden Pearlman says the initial project involves bringing new life to what once was the conservatory at the back of the house.

Once a stunning room with glass walls on three sides, the structure was razed in the 1950s. What remains is the conservatory floor, which has become a dangerous eyesore that lets water penetrate into the building, Pearlman said.

The initial project is being funded by a gift from the Frank B. Foster Charitable Trust. It involves pouring a new foundation and decorative floor and add a low masonry wall and hand railings.

Top: Wielding the ceremonial shovels were Shiva Mohsenzadeh, an aide to State Sen. Jeff Schoenberg; Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl; State Rep. Robyn Gabel, and Tim Foster of the Frank B. Foster Charitable Trust. Above: A rendering of the conservatory restoration plan from AltusWorks, the project architect.

Pearlman says it will create “a beautiful, stable, and usable space and more importantly will help to ‘seal the envelope’ on the National Landmark House.”

The east side of the 1894-vintage home at 225 Greenwood St., once owned by Dawes, who served as vice-president under Calvin Coolidge, is now sheathed in scaffolding and construction netting for tuckpointing and other masonry restoration work.

Tim Foster, representing the charitable trust founded by his father, said, “My father would have wanted this to have happened with his money”

Like his father, he’s a volunteer at the history center and he recalled that his father would once give visitors to the center tours of Evanston in his own car.

The restoration project, Foster said, “is the next big phase of the house, getting ready for the next generation.”

Pearlman said restoration of the property will make it “a great marketing tool” for Evanston and added that she anticipates the building being used more extensively in the future to host concerts and other community events.

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