A vision for the Harley Clarke mansion that might have seemed a pipe dream to some when it was presented last spring is gathering substance.

A group of Evanston residents whose mission is to “establish the Harley Clarke mansion, garden and grounds as a permanent, public fixture at Lighthouse Landing Park” has become an Illinois not-for-profit association and is in the process of applying for federal 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.  Although the group has not settled on a name for itself, its name for the project – restoring the mansion and grounds and preserving them for public use – is Evanston Lakehouse & Gardens. Information on the website evanstonlakehouse.org says, “Our vision is to revitalize the Harley Clarke mansion into Evanston Lakehouse & Gardens: a vibrant, self-sustaining community space rich in historic architecture, lush gardens, social experiences, artistry and seasonal events. The community mansion will be a self-sustaining operation, at no cost to the City government, which serves to enhance and support current Evanston programming.”

Alex Block, who serves as secretary of the organization, told the RoundTable he has received a positive response from everyone he has spoken to about the project. “There is no cost to the City. The organization will provide the money to restore the mansion, and then it will be self-sustaining.” He said he believes the aldermen will get on board “if we put a viable, well-funded proposal” before them.

 “What’s not to like?” said Mr. Block of the proposal. “The question is, ‘Is it viable?”

Without even asking for money, Mr. Block said, the organization has received more than $10,000 in pledges. “It’ a long way from the $4 million we might need, but it shows the enthusiasm and the community response.”

City Council is slated to discuss the future of the mansion at the Sept. 21 City Council meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. …….

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...