It worked in 2013, but will it work tonight? Signs began popping up in Evanston yesterday, urging the City Council to reject any use of the Harley Clarke mansion that involves a profit-making entity.

The signs came with leaflets stuck in the screeen doors that read:

“In 2013, thousands of residents came together to support the ‘Parks are for People, Not for Profit’ campaign through Yard signs were displayed at the time to demonstrate how residents felt about the importance of opposing privatization for commercial use of our parks and lakefront.

“Now the City Council needs to hear from you again.”

Two years ago, similar signs were credited with convincing the council to reject a proposal from Evanston billionaire Jennifer Pritzker (who was then Col. James Pritzker), at the behest of Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, to rehabilitate the Harley Clarke mansion at Lighthouse Park and convert it to a boutique hotel.

As a result, the city now has a white elephant on its hands that could eventually be torn down if it can’t come up with a use for the property that now stands vacant.

A special citizens committee that has been meeting for months to consider the plight of the mansion is on the council’s agenda to present its recommendations tonight.

The anti-privitization forces are advocating that either the building and adjoining property should be used for “public uses” or it should be “deconstructed and the land incorporated into the adjacent parklands to create a unified historic park.”

Related story:

Aldermen to Pritzker: ‘Nevermind’

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

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  1. Surprise!!!!

    I bet these people don't know that the H-C masion and the land it is on is not on park land. It is on private land that was purchased by the city. It was wasted for 40+ years while the city leased it to the EAC for $ 1 per year. The city has lost over a million dollars while they maintained the outside property.  The city also looked the other way while the EAC failed to keep the mansion up to code.

    It is time for the city to try to recover the money they wasted by returning the mansion and the property to the private sector. This needs to be done for the majority of Evanston citizens, as opposed to those with the wealthest and loudest mouths.

    1. i wonder who is paying for those signs?

      I wonder who is paying for those signs?  It is not clear at all from the website.  What does seem clear to me is that the bulk of people in Evanston I've talked to seem to support some sort of sensible plan for a b&b/event space/restaurant or similar "open to the public" operation that would be a good neighbor and nice addition to our town.  I would certainly support that, and would love to visit if established. 

    2. Harley Clark Mansion

      Northwestern has already ravaged the Evanston lakefront. We don't need no stinking boutique hotel for the wealthy Northwestern alumni to frequent. What we need is more people who think like Daniel Burnham when he realized the lakefront was the legacy to future generations. Thank you Daniel.

      Now have we come to the point where the public good is put up for sale to the highest bidder. Only a select few would ever be able to take advatage of a boutique hotel (whatever that is) while the lake front and additional park land could be used and enjoyed by all.


      1. First I’d like to point out

        First I’d like to point out that Daniel Burnham was the original NIMBY, why do you think Sheridan Rd. runs around Burnham place?  Gee, I wonder?  

        Secondly, if you don’t like a world class university in your town, move to Oak Park.

        John Evans, our town’s founder, was one of the original founders of Northwestern first (1851 vs. 1854).

        Moving to Evanston, then complaining about NU Alumni and the size of the Campus is almost like moving to Whiting and complaining about U.S. Steal building on their own land and the smell.

  2. Back Lot Home Owner Hypocrisy

    The signs are still up all over town.  One bit of true ironly is that the signs seem to be especially heavy in the homes around the "Back Lot".  For anyone unfamilar, the Back Lot is a private park in northwest evanston that is for the exclusive use of the adjacent homeowners.  Live in a house down the street or in an apartment nearby and try to use it and the cops will quickly be called.

    I have heard the park is registered to the county as property tax-free, although I am not sure if that is reallhy true. Regardless, it is a private park that only a few in Evanston are legally allowed to set foot on. So given that, posting yard signs by these folks about how parkland should not be private is a bit much.

    1. I’d wondered about that

      While jogging years ago I saw this park.  I assumed it was owned by and paid for [including all maintenance] by residents.  If not it certainly should not be tax-exemp and neighbors should not be able to prohibit anyone using it.

      Some what different is the 'park' NE corner of Ridge and Lincoln. No signs that it is a park, no playground equipment, not even a bench.  In twenty years I've probably seen it used for a couple of people playing catch—no picnics,no cooking [or facilities].  I found other people like me assumed it was private property of house just to the east.

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