Committee discusses future of Harley Clarke’s fog houses


Daily file photo by Daniel Tian

There are two fog houses on the property containing the Harley Clarke Mansion. City staff are proposing to fund repairs for the fog houses.

Kristina Karisch, Reporter

With planning still underway for the Harley Clarke Mansion, the city is proposing to renovate fog houses on the property.

In August, City Council agreed to keep the mansion in city possession and fund $250,000 in basic repairs after years of back-and-forth on what to do with the property. That followed years of uncertainty surrounding the building, once home to the Evanston Art Center, before the city decided to seek a buyer for the building. Although the council never approved any buyer for the building, the plan from August puts maintenance and upkeep responsibilities in city hands.  

The city is discussing funding $400,000 in critical repairs to the fog houses separate from the basic repairs allotment, Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) said at a Harley Clarke Visioning Committee meeting Wednesday night.

The fog house repairs may include dealing with mold in the building, working on the roof and addressing the water infiltration to ensure summer programs hosted there can still take place, she said.

To raise the money needed for the renovations, it was suggested the city redirect funding that had been earmarked for security improvements to the Civic Center, Revelle said.

“If we redirect this funding from the capital improvements program and from the Civic Center to fixing up the roofs of the fog houses … then the fog houses could be used in the summer of 2017 for the existing recreational programming,” Revelle said.

Deputy city manager Erika Storlie said the $400,000 would just be a portion of the funds set aside for security improvements. As a result, the city is postponing the security improvements until around the end of this fiscal year, she said.

The $400,000 would cover the critical repairs that need to be addressed right now, said Lawrence Hemingway, director of Parks, Recreation and Community Services. The repairs would be made after approval from the Preservation Commission in order to ensure the materials used maintain the federal landmark status of the fog houses.

The city currently leases the fog houses from the federal government, as the fog house are a part of the National Historic Landmark lighthouse property, Hemingway said. He added that a new allotment of $1 million is proposed for 2019 for the fog houses to allow for larger-scale renovations that could include bathroom renovations.

The renovations for the fog houses are set to be completed by May 2017, and the first tentative deadline for a plan for Harley Clarke is for next July.

The $250,000 plan that will fund the repairs for Harley Clarke still stands, Revelle said, and will cover renovations to the mansion itself, the grounds surrounding it and the adjacent buildings.

The next meeting is scheduled for December, when the committee will hear a presentation from Evanston Lakehouse & Gardens, a public charity formed with the goal of protecting the Harley Clarke Estate, and put forward plans for its renovation and use.

“This building sits in an incredibly unique place in Evanston,” said Evanston Lakehouse & Gardens member Tom Hodgman. “There’s nothing else like it in Evanston or on the North Shore. It sits at the intersection of the lake, the beach, the dunes, the forest, the Jens Jensen gardens … this place can be a huge draw for people and have some really unique uses.”

Revelle told the Daily she was looking forward to hearing from Evanston Lakehouse & Gardens, and sees the group’s exciting potential for the property.

“The big question remains,” she said. “Can we raise the money?”

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Twitter: @kristinakarisch