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Village Manager's Blog

Historic Preservation in Glencoe

Phil_KiralyBy Village Manager Phil Kiraly

This week, a healthy dialogue surrounding historic preservation in Glencoe found its way into the press and onto social media platforms. As this topic is multi-faceted and often complex, I thought I would use this blog to help explain the Village’s historic preservation designations and related ordinances.

With Glencoe reaching its 150th birthday earlier this year, our community celebrates a diverse housing stock of varying sizes, ages, architectural provenance and significance. A more formal focus on preservation of historic homes began approximately 30 years ago with the creation of the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC). The HPC is an advisory commission to the Village Board, and it was established to “protect, enhance and perpetuate those historical structures, buildings, objects and sites valued by the Village and its residents which are significant to the Village’s history, culture and architecture.” In pursuit of this mission, the HPC makes recommendations and encourages an ongoing dialogue in the community about preservation, with one of its main functions being to facilitate local landmark designations.

As established by Village Ordinance, there are two primary designations that the HPC may consider: honorary landmarks and certified landmarks. Both designations are in recognition of a properties’ “special character, historical, cultural or architectural significance or its value as part of the development, heritage or culture of the Village, State of Illinois or the United States…” In addition to these local designations, various county, state and federal historical designations may also be pursued.

So what do these local landmark designations mean? Let’s outline each briefly:

  • An honorary landmark designation can be initiated by an owner, the HPC or 50% or more of the owners of properties in the area. Owner consent is not required. The application is reviewed by the HPC, and a recommendation is made to the Village Board, which then considers whether to approve the designation. If approved, any request to demolish the home requires a mandatory 180-day demolition delay (as opposed to the mandatory 60-day demolition delay for non-landmarked structures). During this delay, owners are asked to meet with the HPC to discuss alternatives to demolition. During these discussions, the HPC may connect the property owner to outside organizations such as Landmark Illinois, the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy and the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency for additional resources. These organizations, among others, can aid the owner in considering alternatives to demolition, with options ranging from grants for historically-minded renovations, to ways to use additions to retrofit the structure or even moving the structure to a completely different location altogether. However, after the delay period ends, demolition may move forward.
  • A certified landmark designation adds extra protections to a property and requires owner consent. This designation carries with it a commitment from the owners to preserve the historic and architectural appearance of the structure. Furthermore, should an owner of a certified landmark wish to alter, demolish or make other changes to the exterior of the structure, the HPC must give explicit permission. The HPC’s decision is binding. 

Less formally, the HPC may determine a property to be a Significant Glencoe Structure which carries no official designation, but does earn the property a spot on the Historic Glencoe Architectural Survey. Speaking of the Architectural Survey, take a look at the interactive story-map to view a comprehensive list of structures in the Village that are locally designated landmarks, properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places and non-landmark structures that are significant to Glencoe. As you’ll see in the Architectural Survey, there are currently about 90 honorary or designated landmarks in Glencoe (with 17 others that were previously designated having since been demolished).

No doubt, local landmark designation can be complicated, and that’s why it is tasked to a group of thoughtful individuals in the HPC. You may have read in the news or in social media posts this week that the HPC needs some additional members – that’s true, and if you’re interested in serving, please complete an application here. The current HPC Chair and the Village President are actively interviewing new members. The Village President will be making recommendations in the near future to fill vacancies on the Commission.

I hope that this information has been helpful in shedding some light on the local ordinances that guide historic preservation in Glencoe. As always, should you have questions about the Village’s practices, ordinances or projects, my door is always open.