Harley Clarke Mansion: Updates

Updates on Harley Clarke Mansion in Evanston, included on LI's 2016 Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois

Latest news, updated August 2019

The City of Evanston has issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for long-term lease, rehabilitation and reuse of the historic Harley Clarke Mansion. Release of the RFP comes after local citizens advocacy group in Evanston, Save Harley Clarke, successfully persuaded Evanston City Council to cease its demolition efforts at the historic home, based on a November 2018 referendum where 82% of voters expressed their desire for its refurbishment and reuse. Respondents are required to submit their proposals by February 28, 2020, and must include a component of public use in their plans.

The City of Evanston is opening the Harley Clarke Mansion for public viewing for parties interested in responding to the Request for Proposals (RFP).

Dates for public viewings of the Harley Clarke Mansion are below. the mansion is open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. for viewings on all dates listed.

  • September 3, 4, & 5
  • October 1, 2 & 3

The Harley Clarke Mansion was included on LI’s 2016 Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois, and LI continues to provide technical and advocacy assistance toward a reuse solution for this beloved local landmark

Another update: the local advocacy group Evanston Lake House and Gardens held three community engagement meetings in the spring of 2019. Nearly 300 citizens attended and generated over 250 use ideas for the building demonstrating continued interest in the historic home’s future. Reflecting this support, the word “community” was added to the group’s name in July 2019 so it is now known as Evanston Community Lakehouse and Gardens (ECLG).



A timeline of LI’s advocacy work for Harley Clarke:

  • 2015: LI staff participated in meetings of the Harley Clarke Citizens Committee throughout 2015. The Citizens Committee vote did not deliver a majority opinion, but the top vote count was for preservation of the Mansion;
  • April 2016: LI listed the Harley Clarke Mansion on its 2016 Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois. One aspect of that listing was our offer to the City of Evanston to complete an adaptive reuse study identifying potential reuse options. We offered to do this for free. The City Manager declined our offer for assistance.
  • August 2016: Landmarks Illinois continued to push for adaptive reuse at City Council hearings on the Mansion’s future. We believe this helped to lead to the City opening up the Mansion to the public for an open house in August 2016. At that open house, we had WJE conduct a free building condition assessment for us that identified the building only needed about $250,000 to be made code compliant and able to be occupied. This report was delivered to the City of Evanston. The Council subsequently decided to devote $250,000 to its basic repairs to help make it more marketable as it put out an RFP for a nonprofit user. We worked with the one bidder that returned a proposal for the RFP from 2016 through today to assist with fundraising ideas, board development and overall strategy. We supported this group, Evanston Lakehouse & Gardens at public hearings with testimony.
  • 2017: The continuing lack of a State budget in 2017 led the City to retract that $250,000 and not make any repairs.
  • May 2018: The City Council denied to approve a lease agreement for Harley Clarke with Evanston Lakehouse & Gardens. LI met with Evanston Mayor Hagerty and Alderman Revelle in May to ask that they return to the lease negotiation and to inform them that any discussion of proposed demolition by the Council may be considered anticipatory demolition under the State Section 707 law and Section 106 federal regulations. LI President & CEO Bonnie McDonald spoke on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight about these laws and the importance of the house.
  • 2018 continued: LI has advised local advocates on legal options to prevent demolition and is continuing to do so. LI has informed our State Historic Preservation Office of the anticipatory demolition of this National Register property, as well as other state agencies.
  • July 2018: The Council refused to go back to the negotiation table to update the lease with Evanston Lakehouse & Gardens, and instead directed the city to begin the process of drafting a memorandum of understanding with a group of residents, called the Lakehouse Dunes, who have said they will to demolish the city-owned mansion. LI President & CEO Bonnie McDonald was one of about 80 people who testified at the City Council’s July 23, 2018, meeting and said demolition should not be an option for a City Landmark and National Register property. The Council still voted 5-3 at that meeting to pursue demolition.
  • October 10, 2018: Landmarks Illinois sent a letter to the Evanston Preservation Commission requesting the commission deny the City Council’s request to demolish the Harley Clarke Mansion. Read the full letter here.
  • October 23, 2018: The Evanston Preservation Commission voted unanimously against the city’s request to demolish the Harley Clarke Mansion, a designated Evanston City Landmark. Landmarks Illinois attended the Oct. 23, 2018 Preservation Commission meeting to advocate for preserving the historic home. We thank all the advocates and professionals who joined us at the meeting and spoke to the commission on the building’s architectural and cultural significance as well as its stable and repairable condition. These experts included:
    • LI Skyline Council Chair Allison Toonen-Talamo, Associate II, A/E Group, Klein & Hoffman
    • Skyline Council member Greg Dowell, Senior Architect & Building Envelope Consultant, ZS LLC
    • Madeline Gelis, Madeline Gelis, Inc., Interior Design
    • Brad White, Evanston Resident, Author of Evanston Preservation Ordinance, and Sitting Member of the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation
    • Julia Bachrach, Jens Jensen Expert, Historian and Preservation Planner
    • Peter Babaian, Simpson, Gupertz & Heger
    • Staurt Cohen on behalf of Susan Benjamin, Architectural Historian
    • Ed Gerns, Wiss, Janney, Elstner
    • Paul Janicki, Evanston Architect
    • Ann McGuire, Evanston Preservation Architect
    • Mary McWilliams, Unofficial Preservation Commission Historian (Preservation Commission Evaluation Committee 1977-87)
    • Michelangelo Sabatino, Dean of the College of Architecture, IIT
    • Neal Vogel, Historic Preservation Contractor, Restoric, LLC

Background on the City of Evanston’s decisions for Harley Clarke:

The Evanston City Council in April 2018 voted against entering into a lease agreement with the Evanston Lakehouse & Gardens to rehabilitate and reuse the Harley Clarke Mansion for educational and cultural programming, despite the city-appointed Harley Clarke Planning Committee’s recommendation and the Council’s initial vote in support of it. Furthering the path to demolition, on June 18, 2018, the Council approved a resolution to enter into discussions with a small group of private citizens called the Evanston Lighthouse Dunes, who proposed paying for demolition of the house and repair of the Jens Jensen gardens. This proposal is in direct conflict with previous public surveys showing citizens preferred to see the landmark, which is a city-owned asset, reused and protected. With many others, LI testified in opposition to the demolition proposal.

Additional links and information

For more information, go to: http://EvanstonLakehouse.org.

You can also visit the Save Harley Clarke website. The group filed a referendum to put a demolition vote on the public ballot in Evanston in November, allowing residents to decide on the future of the historic home.

If you are an Evanston resident, please reach out to your alderman and the mayor and urge them to not support the destruction of this historic, public asset.

To see a timeline of the city of Evanston’s public process through 2017 regarding the future of Harley Clarke, go to:

(Photo credit: Carl Klein)

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