If yard signs are any indication, active opposition to the proposed sale of Evanston’s Harley Clarke mansion is highly localized.

A windshield survey this morning of more than a dozen blocks in the immediate area around the mansion turned up at least 44 homes with copies of the yard signs distributed by activists organizing opposition to the sale.

That ranged from all four homes on Sheridan Road directly opposite the mansion, through about a quarter of the homes on some close-in blocks to as few as one-in-ten homes just a little more distant.

And the the signs of support become really sparse further away from the lake. We spotted three signs on Asbury Avenue between Howard and Chuch streets, two signs on Dodge Avenue between Howard and Simpson Streets, one sign on Chuch Street between McCormick Boulevard and Asbury and no signs on a similar stretch of Emerson Street.

The east face of the Harley Clarke mansion.

Evanston aldermen will get a chance to judge the breadth of opposition for themselves tonight when they’re scheduled to discuss a request from the would-be purchaser of the mansion Col. James N. Pritzker, to clarify the city’s proposed terms for the sale.

Opponents are urging their supporters to turn out and speak at the public comment session during the meeting.

Pritzker, in response to a request for proposals from the city, has advanced the idea of expanding the mansion to create a 57-room boutique hotel that would have a 200-car underground parking garage.

The proposal would preserve public ownership of and access to the beach — but would transfer most of the rest of the mansion grounds to private ownership.

Related stories

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. This is an understatement

    There are a lot of signs in NW Evanston, between Green Bay and Crawford. There are thousands of residents from all over Evanston opposing this.

  2. I live in southwest Evanston

    I live in southwest Evanston (near Dodge and Oakton) and I've seen a fair number of these signs popping up on the lawns around there too.

  3. Signs don’t measure all of the opposition

    The signs may have a higher concentration north near Lighthouse Beach, but I know that here on the South end of Evanston, there are many people who are equally opposed to the sale. I don't know if counting yard signs is the best way to measure who is opposed; it may just measure where yard signs have been better distributed. Similar to how one would see more candidates signs outside of a polling place.  

    If this sale happens, I imagine our Alderpeople will need to continue to get campaign donations from Pritzker, like Mark Tendam has, because I doubt many will run unopposed in the next election.

  4. Yard signs

    Hardly a measure of opposition to the sale of our park land. Just because I don't have a sign on my property doesn't mean that I'm in support of selling the Clarke land and changing the character of the park. And by the way, I don't live in the ward. I visit the park on bike regularly (and by car occasionally)  to go to  the beach, watch a summer movie at the park, garden at the community plots, take classes or view an exhibit at the art center. This park belongs to all the people of Evanston. Build your "boutique" hotel elsewhere. It doesn't belong on Evanston park land.

  5. Mansion Sale

    I think it is short sighted of you to make this analysis of oppostion to the masnsion based on the display of lawn signs that you saw.  Many are out of town in the summer/ many do not have access to the signs nor know where to get them.  There is widespread dissatisfaction with the sale if you do a reliable survey of Evanstonians.  What poor slanted journalistic bias

    1. Other measurement techniques

      Hi Yvette,

      I'd be delighted to receive your contribution toward the cost of doing a scientific survey on this subject or any other burning issue in Evanston.

      The cost of doing one starts at about $2,000 — which is significantly more than what Evanston Now can afford on its own.

      An informal survey of the distribution of yard signs was the best we could do this morning.

      There is nothing "slanted" or "biased" in the story. It is simply a report of what I actually observed driving around town. Had I found a different distribution of signs, I would have happily reported that.



      1. No Sign = Support?

        Am I required by ordinance to put a sign in my lawn if I support or oppose some issue in town? 

        I'd be wary of drawing conclusions of support based purely on signs.

        1. Silly lawnsigns

          You are right, Jim…we can't assume that people who do not have lawnsigns support the project.

          But the whole point of these silly lawnsigns is to demonstrate public support against the Great Threat to Evanston's Future  ( pick one:  Kendall Development, Tower, new Civic Center, Harly-hyphen-Clarke hotel,  whatever)

          Bill's article correctly noted that the NIMBY support -as measured by lawnsigns – seems to be concentrated at NIMBY Ground Zero ( the Kendall lot).

          Measuring sentiment by lawnsigns actually favors NIMBYs….since non-NIMBYs are not in the habit of lawnsign campaigns, and many non-NIMBYs do not even have back or front yards to place lawnsigns.

          1. Their Own Back Yard

            Considering that those all are issues in their neighborhood, I think it's odd you seem to find it outrageous that they dare express opinions about their own backyards. Every time you type "NIMBY," I read it as "People Who Disagree With Me And Should Just Shut Up!" 

            Sure, PWDWMASJSU isn't as catchy as the other acronym, but it seems to be what the self-styled anti-NIMBYs are really saying.

  6. Not localized at all

    I live on Simpson St. more than 14 blocks west of the mansion and a casual drive down my block alone shows more than 7 signs. If you drive further throughout northwest Evanston ( a neighborhood not impacted by the plans directly) you see many more lawn signs. This is an issue that impacts all Evanston residents not just residents nearby who object to a hotel on the city's historic landmark property.

  7. Definition of NIMBY

    Of course the yardsigns are only localized, that is the exact definition of NIMBY and these people are nothing but NIMBYS.  

    The park and the beach remain open and public, the hotel will be beautiful and provide many benefits to the community. And one of the many benefits will be Evanston residents who are not as fortunate to live in a big house on Sheridan Road will now have an opportunity for employment, unless the NIMBY's win, in which case  those less fortunate can continue being unemployed for localized NIMBY benefit.

    NIMBYS serve nobody but themselves and will say anything that benefits their personal agenda. The NIMBY yardsigns portraying this proposal as having a profit motive and not a preservation motive is a telling example and that type of misrepresentation is simply not acceptable.

    1. What is the profit motive?

      What is the profit motive?

      How does the hotel help people who are less fortunate?

      1. Profit motive?

        UMMM, maybe providing jobs for the unemployed?  A small hotel will hire dozens of people. 

        UMMM, there is no profit motive, only a preservation motive,  it's the NIMBY signs that are very incorrectly insinuating that there is a profit motive when there is none. 

    1. Better get used to it

      As the city seems to get taxpayers to finance more and more of their own priorities [theaters, wine bars, property to in effect 'give' to their favorites, the city will be forced to sell more and more existing properties.

      Whether common sense sales can ever keep up with new projects the Council lays on taxpayers, is doubtful.

      As with pension/salary promises government never thought they would have to pay—or be retired and out of Evanston itself, they keep taking on more and more and forget there is a cost ! but then their children can pay that.  I would say they would be 'long gone' but as we can see with Detroit, Chicago, Illinois, the 'bills are coming due' and no one knows/want what to do about them.  At least Detroit was forced to wake-up, Chicago and Illinois recognize there is a problem—though they don't want to address it  Evanston, at least the Council and those still in the 18th Century, don't realize it.

  8. Where do I get a sign to tear down the mansion?

    It doesn't take much to put a sign in your yard. But how many people have figure out how to pay for the restoration and upkeep on the property? Maybe each person who has a sign in their yard supporting the mansion remaining a city-owned property can be assessed a special tax for restoration and maintenance. I for one say sell the building, not the access to the beach and the beachfront itself, but get the building off the city-owned property list. 

    So let's not sell it to Mr Pritzker, let's tear it down instead.

    And if "Parks are for People. Not for Profit.", then what does the building have to do with any of it? I would have to assume that those who are putting these signs in front of their homes have no issue with the building being torn down. Actually, that would make more parkland.

    1. Level the building and open the park

      I own property across the street from the mansion.  I have a sign on my lawn objecting to the sale.  Yes, I prefer the building be leveled in favor of opening the park.


  9. Yard Sign Story Bias

    Come on Bill, everybody who reads your internet newspaper knows you do a good job.  However, you do have a political agenda, you like to take shots at people you don't agree with, and you tend to promote the interests of your advertisers.  Of course you would try to minimize the opposition to the sale of the Harley Clarke mansion, because you support it.  OK Bill, let's put your journalistic crednetials to the test – let's see if you print this.  I expect a long denial.

    1. Jumping to conclusions

      Hi Casper,

      Have you ever asked me whether I support the sale? I didn't think so.

      Have you read my only editorial viewpoint column so far regarding the sale — which said "the public does not yet have enough information about the plan from the would-be purchaser, Col. James N. Pritzker, to make an informed decision about the merits of his proposal"?

      Can you point to any advertisment on Evanston Now ever purchased by Col. Pritzker? No you can't.

      So, your comments are without factual basis.

      But thanks for writing.

      — Bill

    2. Unfair and untrue allegation of bias


      Your comments are about as substantive as a ghost.  This is great newspaper that covers Evanston in superb detail and without concealed bias.

      Editorial opinions are clearly identified. Your insinuations against the reporter are unfounded, unsubstantiated, and unfair.

      Go make your mischief somewhere else.

  10. Opposing the sale is fine,

    Opposing the sale is fine, noble, and quite Evanston-like.

    Coming up with a way to pay for the mansion's renovation is another matter.

    As an Evanston taxpayer, I want to see public land stay public.

    I d like to see the mansion preserved, too,  but I don't want to pay one nickel for its renovation. If opponents want to pay to save it, I'd like to see them start a fund to that end.

    Otherwise, work out a deal to get it saved and renovated with the least amount of park land made private and access to the beach preserved.

  11. Where can we get signs?

    I like about 2 miles from Lighthouse, and have no sign. If I need a sign so show that I disapprove of this behind closed doors deal, where can I get one?  I know many many people far west of the lake that would also put a sign in their front yard.  If anyone knows where the signs are being distributed from, please share.   

  12. Signs of discontent…

    I live on Oakton St. in SE Evanston near the elevated train platform @ South Blvd… I have a sign in my front yard.

    I oppose the Pritzger proposal for several reasons… methinks there is a lot at stake here…

    1. Special "spot zoning" precedent/s = bad policy!
    2. Undoubtedly expensive legal challenges – you betcha
    3. Taking away (or minimizing) parkland adjacent to our liquid treasure – need more parks/parkland, not less!
    4. Not in synch with previous Lakefront Plans (2008)
    5. What will a Hotel do to beach use? – I would be inhibited from going there in the shadow of a business.
    6. How will a Hotel upset the balance of the adjacent (premium) residential properties? – I'd bet they are not  very happy about this – and willing to pony up big $$'s to fight this to the end.

    On top of all of this… a low-ball offer of $1.2 M??  This deals looks and smells bad to me…Remember a few years ago when there was a plan to sell the Civic Center?  I am glad that did not happen!  (The "experts" were quoting between $300 – 400 per square foot to renovate… I was happy to lead a delegation to the Mallincrodt in Wilmette to show the Mayor what $130/sq/ft looked like… yes, marble, Kohler fixtures, Maytag in the kitchens… etc. etc. )

    Respectfully submitted, Brian G. Becharas  (Not a NIMBY…  I just love our lakefront and want to see it preserved for generations to come)

  13. I’ve got a sign and I’m not angry

    I think it is a mistake to believe that opposition to the sale of our parkland denotes "anger".  I've got a sign and I'm not angry.  We just want our Council to know how much Evanston's parkland means to us. And it means a lot.

  14. Healthy disagreement makes Evanston unique

    Northwest Evanston is covered in signs. 1,000 signs have been distributed. They are all over. Do not judge who is opposed based on sign placement. We are free to speak our minds as Evanstonians have for years. If you don't agree that's fine. Healthy disagreement is what makes this town unique! 

  15. Signs don’t help the appearance of the neighborhood

    Just because we do not have a yard sign, does not mean we support the idea of the sale and this particular use of the property .  

    We live near Dempster and Ridge and have lived in Evanston for over 35 years. The steady building and growth that we have seen in Evanston is not necessarily a good thing long term.  The building  may be raising the tax base, but this is going to provide long term problems with our infrastructure.

    Traffic has steadily increased. Every open piece of land is being snapped up. There are areas of the city and existing buildings that have serious drainage issues during storms inspite of new sewers. 

    I do not support selling publicly owned land and especially along the lakefront where all residents should have open access.

    It is bad enough that Northwestern is destroying its portion of the lake front.  I do support the limited growth of B&B's, but say no to lakefront hotels.  

    By the way we do not make a practice of putting signs in our front yard, because it doesn't help the appearance of the neighborhood. 



  16. More tax revenue for Evanston

    I'm all for it, as I am confident Pritzker wil be providing far more tax revenue than any other potential owner, in particular the City which has proven itself particularly inept at recognizing revenue opportunites.

     And if he agrees to include a little bar with a lake view as part of the plan, I'm even more enthusiastic!

  17. Its The Land Stupid

    I couldn't care less about the mansion. Sure, it would be great to preserve/restore the building, but at the end of the day, I am far more concerned about the land. I guarantee that  five, 10, 50 or 100 years from now, nobody will be saying "Remember when the city owned that property and sold it? That was a good idea." I've lived in Evanston on and off since 1958 and I can count on one hand the times I've been to Lighthouse Beach and the surrounding beach… that will never be the point. The point is that our elected officials should never be allowed to sell, trade or give away public land because at the end of the day whoever buys the land will always come out ahead.

  18. Pritzkers are union busters

    If your argument is that this hotel will help the "less fortunate," ie workers, take a quick look at the Pritzkers record on labor because they are one of the worst union busting corporate villains in the country. Ask the Chicago teachers who had to face Penny Pritzker on Rahm's unelected Board of Education. Ask the workers at Hyatt who had the heat lamps turned up over their picket lines in the summer heat. The Pritzkers are as nasty and greedy as corporate bosses get–what makes anyone think they would be good for Evanston?

  19. Step up

    I think it's time for all the opponets of the sale to put their money where their mouths, or signs, are.  These people need to support a special tax assessment placed forever upon their homes which will cover the cost of their demands.

    They need to pay the taxpayers an equal amount that Pritzker is offering, they need to come up with the cash to tear down or rehabilitate the property, they need to raise the cash to create the parks expansion plus the annual cost of the parks maintenance.  They need to reimburse the taxpayers for the lost revenue the hotel would generate. 

    This is not a one time deal, they must pay this tax in perpetuity because that is in essence what they are demanding of others.  When people demand something they should be required to pay for it.  Otherwise they create further burden on everybody else in Evanston to appease their demands.   

    They speak up but nobody should hold their breath waiting for them to responsibly step up.

    1. How many have been there ?

      How many residents who oppose the sale or hotel or even changes to the beach have been there in the last year ? ever ?

      I'm sure there are many NIMBY—even miles away—who oppose anything that sounds like use of land or have any realization of the financial status of the city or the finances of things they propose.

      It is easy to talk but will they walk the walk and put up THEIR money ? Not propose taxes for everyone or even those near the property—most of whom could care less about the property—but do care about taxes and the Evanston economy.

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 *