Park Ridge Youth Campus redevelopment could displace history center
The future of Solomon Cottage, which houses the Park Ridge Historical Society, remains in doubt as a developer has proposed homes on the site at 733 N. Prospect Ave. | Jennifer Johnson~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 3, 2012 6:18AM
PARK RIDGE — The future of a historic Park Ridge building remains in doubt as efforts to redevelop the property upon which it is located begin to take shape.
Solomon Cottage, which stands on the grounds of the Park Ridge Youth Campus, 733 N. Prospect Ave., was the first building constructed on the campus in 1908 and now houses the Park Ridge Historical Society’s History Center. It is also on a 4-acre section of campus property that a developer is planning to purchase for the construction of 23 new homes.
Historical Society President Paul Adlaf declined to comment on the status of the building or where the Historical Society might end up, but a message on the organization’s website states that members “continue to monitor developments” and are “compiling a list of potential alternate locations for the History Center, preferably historic sites and reasonably close to the center of town.”
Developer Mark Elliott, of Elliott Builders, the prospective purchaser of the land on which Solomon Cottage stands, indicated that plans for the cottage have not been finalized.
“We’re looking at a couple of different options, but we haven’t decided what might happen with it,” he said.
The Park Ridge Recreation and Park District, which is hoping to purchase the remaining 6.85-acres of the Youth Campus if voters approve a referendum in November, has had meetings with Historical Society representatives regarding the building, said Gayle Mountcastle, executive director of the Park District.
“They are interested in saving (Solomon Cottage),” Mountcastle said, explaining that she advised Adlaf to submit a proposal to the Park District. “We’re in the information-gathering stage and we’re open to listening if they have a proposal for wanting to keep it on our property.”
The Park Ridge Historical Society relocated to Solomon Cottage in 2009 after 25 years inside a privately owned home at 41 Prairie Ave. The move, Adlaf said at the time, was largely driven by cost, particularly property taxes.
Solomon Cottage was named in recognition of Hannah Greenebaum Solomon, who according to the Youth Campus led a financial-reorganization effort of the Illinois Industrial School for Girls, as the Youth Campus was once known. Solomon served on the school’s board with Jane Addams, founder of Chicago’s Hull House, according to the Youth Campus.
Solomon, was also the founder and first president of the National Council of Jewish Women, a faith-based advocacy organization that remains active today with headquarters in New York, N.Y., and offices in Washington, D.C., and Jerusalem.
In 1998, buildings on the Park Ridge Youth Campus property were added to the National Register of Historic Places, information from the federal agency states. According to the application for historic designation, funding for the construction of the one-story Solomon Cottage was provided by businessman Julius Rosenwald, of Sears Roebuck & Company.
Judy Barclay, chairwoman of the Park Ridge Historic Preservation Commission and an active participant in the Kalo Foundation, which saved Iannelli Studios from the wrecking ball by purchasing it, said she would like to see Solomon Cottage remain standing, but acknowledged that she is unaware of any community efforts to preserve it.
“Landmarks Illinois called me. They said, ‘What you doing?’ I said unless the Historical Society steps up and says, ‘Help us save this site,’ what can we do?” Barclay said. “Nobody seems to want to save it and it’s a shame. It’s very much a part of our community.”
The developer could also benefit from keeping Solomon Cottage standing because tax breaks are available for historically designated structures, Barclay said.
If the referendum passes, the Park Ridge Recreation and Park District is planning to maintain three early-20th-century buildings on the campus: Wohlers Hall, constructed in 1910 and originally known as Straut School of Domestic Economy; Buck Hall, a two-story school building constructed in 1914; and either Illinois Cottage or Talcott Cottage, though Mountcastle indicated that Illinois is the likely candidate. Illinois Cottage was built in 1914.