Many instances of adaptive reuse of historic homes exist regionally and across the country. Their histories parallel that of Harley Clarke and their successes inspire and inform ECLG’s proposal. Here is a brief summary of other successfully restored community mansions with sustainable business plans.
The Grove, Glenview, IL
The Grove was the home of Dr. John Kennicott whose son, Robert, is known for his plant and animal specimen collections at the Smithsonian Institution, as well as for founding the Chicago Academy of Sciences, and for the exploration of Russian America that led to the purchase of Alaska. It sits on 143 acres of ecologically diverse prairie grove preserved that is maintained by the Glenview Park District.
The U.S. Department of the Interior designated it a National Historic Landmark in 1976; it is on the National Registry of Historic Places. The Grove partners with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Chicago Wilderness for educational programming and habitat preservation.
Visitors can learn about native plants, animals and the environment at the Interpretive Center, connect with nature and history through workshops and hands-on programs and walk the winding nature trails.
The Grove includes the Redfield Estate, built in 1929. It faces a wide, grassy clearing where events are held year-round and deer gather at twilight. A large main room provides a gracious setting for parties and reunions. The wooded environment includes two gazebos, a reflecting pool, and tranquil gardens that are ideal for special events.
Highfield Hall and Gardens, Falmouth, MA
Highfield Hall and Gardens is a restored 1878 estate that now serves as a vibrant center of culture and community on Cape Cod. After several decades of neglect, a group of citizens formed the Highfield Hall and Gardens nonprofit in 1994 to rescue the building from demolition . They secured a lease from the Town of Falmouth for $1 per year. Highfield Hall is responsible for all repairs and maintenance of the building.
The group ultimately raised $8.5 million to restore the building and fund an endowment. The mansion now successfully functions as a community and cultural center with a variety of events and exhibits making the organization financially self-sufficient. They continue to have a development program to raise private donations to supplement revenue from events and programming.
Today Highfield Hall has over $8 million in assets, of which over $2 million is cash and investments serving as endowment.
Berger Mansion, Chicago, IL
Berger Mansion includes two of the few remaining Sheridan Road mansions built in the early 1900s (as was Harley Clarke) and is overseen by the Chicago Park District. In 1988, after community pressure prevented demolition, the Park District rehabilitated the buildings.
They are now used as a cultural center and recreational site. The park includes a historic landmark coach house that hosts the Waterfront Café which is a popular destination that raises the profile of the park overall.
Berger offers a variety of cultural programs such as jewelry making, acting, lessons in guitar, tap, modern, flamenco, and senior line dance. It also offers senior aerobics, computer classes, writing classes and theater and music programs for children and adults.
Cheney Mansion, Oak Park, IL
Cheney Mansion was designed in 1913 by Charles E. White, Jr., a student of Frank Lloyd Wright. The 12,000 square foot mansion has several reception rooms and over 2 acres of landscaped grounds. The property is currently managed by the Park District of Oak Park.
The grounds are always open to the public; the mansion is available for self-guided tours unless there is a private event. It is a premier event destination in Oak Park for community events, fundraisers for local non-profits and private parties. Brunch with Santa is held every weekend between Thanksgiving and Christmas and sells out. Tea with Santa was added because of the demand. It sells out too.
Since hiring a full-time director several years ago, the Cheney Mansion operates with a surplus because of the strong demand for event space.
Dole Mansion, Crystal Lake, IL
In 2002, the Lakeside Legacy Foundation raised $1 million in 42 days to purchase the Dole Mansion and surrounding property in order to save it for the community. The Building reopened on July 4, 2005, and is owned and operated by the Lakeside Legacy Foundation which has a mission of preservation, protection and enhancement of the property.
Hauberg House, Rock Island, IL
Hauberg House is a Prairie Style home located on a hilltop meadow. It includes a 1911 mansion, carriage house and 10 acres of grounds designed by Jens Jensen, the same landscape architect who designed the grounds at Harley Clarke.
Although listed in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1972 and regarded as “a jewel,” the property suffered neglect after being deeded to the City in 1956. In 2016, when preservationists learned that the property was to be sold, they established a remarkable public-private ownership arrangement with the City of Rock Island Parks and Recreation Department and the nonprofit Friends of Hauberg Civic Center Foundation.
The Friends Foundation oversees the preservation and sustainability of the property and is organized for charitable and educational purposes including a history series, STEAM classes and public programming that includes murder mystery nights and a Winter in Bloom event. Quad City Arts to hosts musical performances. The Rock Island Horticultural club conducts classes for children.
Like Kenosha’s Southport Park Beach House (below), Hauberg House shows the importance of support from the cities that own them. It is through such support that both properties are realizing the potential of adaptive reuse to build and serve their communities while generating revenue from memberships, events, classes, tours, museums and rentals.
Southport Beach House, Kenosha, WI
Southport Beach House was built as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project between 1936 and 1940. In 2003, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places partly because its exterior is notable for its use of "Cream City Brick" and its mixture of styles. The interior is art deco.
Between 2011 and 2012, the city purchased equipment to demolish the building. Kenosha’s citizens disagreed with demolition just as they have with the effort to demolish Harley Clarke.. They protested demolition by making t-shirts and getting petition signatures and by 2015, they were incorporated as the non-profit Southport Park Association.
In 2017, the Association signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the City of Kenosha. Currently finishing renovation, the Southport Beach House should be open in late 2021. When completed, the website notes that the building will feature a dance floor, small stage and a warming kitchen.