Evanston History Center receives grant for Dawes House renovations


Brian Meng/The Daily Northwestern

The Charles Gates Dawes House, 225 Greenwood St., was built in 1894. A recent grant will allow the Evanston History Center to hire an architect to plan the final phase of renovations.

Julia Esparza, Assistant City Editor

The Evanston History Center will be able to hire an architect for the final phase of its Charles Gates Dawes House renovations with a recent $2,500 grant from Landmarks Illinois.

The $2,500 grant required a matching grant that the organization received from a private donor. The total sum will allow the center to make progress in the project’s planning stage, history center executive director Eden Juron Pearlman said. The architect will design plans to repair the back porch and the house’s infrastructure in preparation for the final phase. The first and second phase included masonry work and installing a heating and cooling system.

This is the second grant Landmarks Illinois has presented to the Dawes House, Landmarks Illinois president Bonnie McDonald said. She said EHC distinguished itself from other applicants because it consistently presented them with well-thought out plans.

“They have shown a commitment to conservation management capacity, and they have shown they can complete a project,” McDonald said.

At the onset of renovations, the house required about $4 million in repairs. Pearlman said the final phase of renovations will cost about $1 million.

EHC does not receive any money from the city to operate or upkeep the property, said the organization’s director of development, Jill Kirk. She said the center relies on grants, profits from events and citizen donations for operations.

Kirk said it is important for the organization to keep the historic property up to code so they can generate revenue through tours and events. This upkeep has included major plumbing and electric repairs, she said.

The second phase of renovations included a new heating and cooling system that is both environmentally friendly and vital for the preservation of historical documents and artifacts, Kirk said.

The Dawes House, located on the lakefront, is a chateauesque-style mansion that was built in 1894. Dawes, a former United States Vice President, formerly owned the property. It was designated a national historic landmark in 1976.

Dawes donated the house to Northwestern, but stipulated that EHC “always have a home there,” Kirk said.

The Dawes House holds heirlooms from former U.S. presidents and Dawes’ ancestors that rode with Paul Revere, Kirk said. Archives in the basement of the structure also hold records of nearly every person who has lived in Evanston since its founding, Kirk said.

McDonald said the Dawes House is not only important architecturally and historically, but the records it holds are especially important to community members. Once, Kirk said, a woman came to the Dawes House looking for information in the archives. When the woman found records in the house archives about her mother, she “burst into tears.”

“Dawes is an important part of Evanston history,” McDonald said. “It’s important to all people to tell who we are and where we come from in order to guide our decisions for the future.”

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