Local advocacy groups, however, were not deterred. With help from Landmarks Illinois, The Cultural Landscape Foundation, The National Trust, and other organizations, the grassroots organization Save Harley Clarke mobilized public support. In October, the Evanston Preservation Commission unanimously denied the city’s application for demolition of the landmarked building and, in a November referendum, a whopping 82% of voters expressed their desire for the refurbishment and reuse of the Harley Clarke Mansion. Despite all this, the City still attempted to move forward with demolition by appealing the Preservation Commission’s decision. At the December 10 hearing on the issue, impassioned citizens crowded the Evanston Civic Center to demand that the City Council heed the public referendum and Preservation Commission. In a stunning and heartening reversal of previous policies, the Evanston City Council unanimously voted to uphold the decision, denying the demolition permit and saving the Harley Clarke Mansion. “The action was a triumph of people power,” wrote Blair Kamin of the Chicago Tribune in December 2018.
Friends of Harley Clarke, an outgrowth of Save Harley Clarke, will now begin working with the city to fund maintenance of the building and begin formalizing and finding an adaptive reuse plan. The city has already received multiple offers to purchase the building for uses ranging from a single family home to a co-working space to an educational facility. While the exact future of the Harley Clarke is yet to be determined, Landmarks Illinois is thrilled to know that demolition is officially off the table, ensuring the bright future of this historic building and grounds. LI will continue to work with local advocates and partners, as it has done so for years, to ensure the preservation of this local and national landmark and to find viable reuse solution.
(Photo credit: Liz Chilsen)