Harley Clarke: An inside look

The City of Evanston issued its new request for proposals Thursday for someone to lease the vacant Harley Clarke mansion on the lakefront and offered reporters a tour of the place, which has been shuttered for the past several years.

The mansion, built in the late 1920s, has more than 20,000 square feet of space on three floors, features elaborate woodwork and includes some original fixtures -- like this chandelier in the main entry hall.

On the first floor, the mantel and surround for one of the fireplaces is missing.

But some other fireplaces appear to be in pretty good shape.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said this is the third time the city has sought proposals for new uses for the mansion.


Wally Bobkiewicz.

The RFP says the city is seeking a long-term lease to "a party that will invest in and renovate the property" at 2603 Sheridan Road.

The leasee "will be required to incorporate a public component as a meaningful component of its proposal using the entire space or a subset of the space."


The stairs leading from the main house to the ground-level conservatory.


A crank, missing its handle, used to open windows in the conservatory for ventilation.

Clarke, whose fortune was at one time estimated at $60 million, after suffering financial reverses in the depression, ended up selling the building to the Sigma Chi fraternity in 1949 for its national headquarters.


The boiler in the basement, with 1980 stamped on it as its installation date.

In the 1960s the fraternity sold the property to the city, which leased it for many years to the Evanston Art Center.


A second-floor bay window offering a view, beyond the parking lot, of Lake Michigan.

In 2013 the city entertained offers to sell the building, but rejected the only proposal it received, from Jennifer Pritzker, to expand it into a boutique hotel.


The third-floor ballroom.

In 2015 the city forced the art center out of the building, in a dispute over maintenance of the property.


The kitchen -- which might need a little updating.

Last year the aldermen rejected a plan to lease the mansion to a non-profit group that sought to operate an environmental education center.

And, in December, after preservationists prevailed in an advisory referendum about the future of the building, the city dropped plans to accept contributions made to fund demolition of the mansion.

The deadline for submitting proposals in response to the latest RFP isn't until next February, and several open houses for potential bidders and meetings to discuss the plans are scheduled in the meantime.

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