Harley Clarke mansion spared from demolition


Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

The Harley Clarke Mansion in north Evanston.

Samantha Handler, Copy Chief

After facing months of pressure and backlash from residents, City Council on Monday unanimously reversed its decision to demolish the Harley Clarke mansion.

Aldermen denied an application from the city to appeal the Evanston Preservation Commission’s decision in October to deny approval for the demolition of the mansion, which sits along the lakefront in north Evanston.

City manager Wally Bobkiewicz told The Daily that the vote on Monday stopped the process of tearing down Harley Clarke. Aldermen expressed the need to consider other ideas without the threat of tearing down Harley Clarke.

“We need to dispose of the issue of demolition because as long as that is out there it acts as a suppressor of other good ideas,” said Ald. Melissa Wynne (3rd).

In July, aldermen agreed to go forward with the demolition, proposed by the group Evanston Lighthouse Dunes, which then sparked a backlash from groups like Save Harley Clarke and an overwhelming 80 percent vote in support of the preservation of the mansion in November.

The council’s decision adds to the growing list of options for the mansion that have been denied since the Evanston Art Center vacated the building in 2015, including the Evanston Lakehouse and Gardens’ proposal to turn it into an environmental education center and a proposal from Jennifer Pritzker.

Mayor Steve Hagerty recapped the number of plans the council has rejected or that have fallen through, saying that everyone in Evanston is “disappointed in some way” when it comes to Harley Clarke.

“I just want everyone to realize we’ve come full circle on this,” Hagerty said. “We’ve run the gamut of ideas presented here.”

Aldermen said they are looking at other options for the mansion, and assistant city manager Erika Storlie said she received calls or emails about plans for Harley Clarke almost daily.

Ald. Donald Wilson (4th) said to move forward, people must be willing to compromise on their visions for Harley Clarke as he said there are “a list of good uses” that do not require complete restoration.

“It’s been a great groundswell of support,” Wilson said at council. “It’s been a great exercise of democracy in action, but we’re really going to have to focus on collaborative efforts if we’re going to get something that can work.”

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