Evanston’s Harley Clarke mansion is included on a list of a dozen “most endangered” historic places issued at a Springfield news conference today by the preservation group Landmarks Illinois.

The group said most of the imperiled buildings are municipally- or institutionally-owned and suggested the state budget crisis and slow economic recovery are creating challenges for preserving the structures.

At one point the Harley Clarke mansion had been proposed to become a home to the Coastal Management Program of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, until budget issues and a change of administrations in Springfield killed that plan.

Landmarks Illinois President Bonnie McDonald, in a statement announcing the list, said the sites included “are all exceptionally important to not only local residents, but the local economy.”

“By calling attention to the potential for reuse and revitalization of these historic places, we are encouraging job creation and economic development across Illinois — something everyone can support,” McDonald added.

However, in the case of the Harley Clarke property, a proposal to create jobs and economic development by expanding the building and turning it into a boutique hotel, was rejected by aldermen in the face of intense criticism from activists who opposed any commercial development along the lakefront.

For the moment, the city has opted to keep the mansion vacant but secured because of uncertainty about how any ultimate resolution of the state budget crisis will affect state aid to the city — and therefore the city’s ability to fund restoration or reuse of the property.

Half the properties identified by Landmarks Illinois are located in the Chicago metro area.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. This will long be remembered

    This will long be remembered as the greatest of council screwups. They kowtowed to about 500 Evanston elitist who wanted to denie Evanston a first class hotel on the lake, a restored mansion, 500+ thousand taxes revenues for the city, increased public parking for the park that is next door to the property and for the beach, and restoration of private property. This same minority group also dishonestly portrayed the mansion as being part of an Evanston park. 

    Also, turning the building over to the INDR was a bad idea that was not well thought-out. It would not do anything for Evanston. Even if the poor condition of Illinois could afford to buy or lease the mansion and property they would need to spend millions to bring the mansion up to code.

    Pritzker was the answer for Evanston's need and we blew it.

    1. Harley Clarke Mansion
      I agree with skipw. Evanston made a big mistake by not letting Pritzker revive the property! Look how the B&B’s turned out.

  2. Standard for being “Historic” and/or need Preservation
    Preservation groups seem to want to define new sites as worthy of Preservation, all the time.
    They should have to define their terms and why it is worthy.
    Such as:
    1. An important event happened. Maybe signing of the Constitution.
    2. A historic person was born and raised their. E.g. Lincoln’s home outside Springfield or Mark Twain’s home.
    3. A universally accepted architecture of which this is the canonical and only example.
    Otherwise it is just a phony ploy such as including NU’s Foster-Walker in the Historic District and thus historic itself.
    To these we should say “Get a life.”

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