Statement by Landmarks Illinois to the Wheaton City Council regarding the request for a Special Use Permit for a Planned Unit Development at:1600 Somerset Lane
July 24, 2017
Dear Mayor Gresk and Members of the City Council:
My name is Lisa DiChiera and I am the Director of Advocacy for Landmarks Illinois. We are a 46-year, solutions-focused historic preservation advocacy organization, and I am here to voice our organization’s support of a special use permit request for a planned unit development (PUD). This request is to allow the applicant to move the House of Seven Gables onto Lots 7 and 8 of the Pulte Homes development on the former Loretto campus. Your approval will allow this extremely important historic mansion to be saved and remain one of Wheaton’s most important architectural icons.
The House of the Seven Gables was included on Landmarks Illinois’ Chicagoland Watch List in 2009 as part of “The Colony at the Chicago Golf Club.” We included the Colony on our Watch List that year due to the numerous teardown threats that were occurring in this historic community – one of the nation’s earliest developments of exclusive golf club residences with homes built between 1896 and 1916 and designed by noted architect Jarvis Hunt. As we understand it, to date over a dozen of the Colony’s homes have been demolished or are planned for demolition. We need to prevent the House of Seven Gables from suffering the same fate.
A previous plan to move the House of Seven Gables for Park District ownership and use failed, and now the plan put forth by the Goldsboroughs should be embraced, as it entails no public funds and does not negatively impact parking or traffic. Having had an institutional use for many years, the House of Seven Gables will be returned to a single-family home use, renovated and returned to the tax rolls. In order to save the historic mansion after the failed Park District plan, the Goldsboroughs have persevered through a stressful logistical and financing process to move the house, thoughtfully listening to neighboring homeowners, which resulted in changing lots sites and renegotiating timelines with the developer and mover. Many at this point would have walked away, yet the Goldsboroughs have still found a feasible solution to save this irreplaceable home and invest in Wheaton’s history.
The Wheaton Comprehensive Plan acknowledges the importance of historic preservation as a “planning issue” and states: “The three most important features of Wheaton’s landscape which describe the City’s success are its strong, attractive neighborhoods, historic character, and quality of life.” The Plan also states as a strategy the need to “evaluate Wheaton’s historic resources” and to “identify historic structures worthy of special designation.” We urge the Council to approve this special use permit request and indeed demonstrate, as emphasized in the Comprehensive plan, the City’s commitment to its heritage and to supporting solutions to preserve its most important historic buildings.