Edwards House advocate pulls out of effort  to save home

Published: Monday, April 27, 2015 12:38 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, April 27, 2015 4:37 p.m. CDT
(Mark Busch - mbusch@shawmedia.com)
A tight timeline and financial disagreements are among factors that have created challenges in preservation advocate John Tillotson's efforts to save the Edwards House.

By EVAN SHIELDS - eshields@shawmedia.comDOWNERS GROVE – An advocate for preserving the historic Edwards House has announced he will no longer be able to save it.

Downers Grove resident John Tillotson and his wife made the decision Friday. One of the biggest factors was the timeline for crews to move forward on the condominium development that will be built on the property where the 1890s Queen Anne Victorian currently sits.

Tillotson said the developers gave him a hard deadline of May 15 to have the house moved before crews started working.

"That's when it was pretty much over. We knew that was not possible," he said.

Tillotson tried to get the deadline extended or find a temporary place to keep the house – such as a parking lot – until the move could be done, but was unable to do so.

David Sosin, an attorney who represents the condo developers, said the May 15 deadline was firm.

"The reason is because there's so much work to do and then it's winter," he said.

Though the project is scheduled to take a year, Sosin said crews need to start in May to finish the structure's exterior. During the winter, crews will work on the interior.

Tillotson remained optimistic last week after the Zoning Board of Appeals unanimously approved a height variance that would allow him to change his house at 743 Maple Ave. into an accessory structure.

Tillotson's plan involved moving the Edwards House from its existing property at 942 Maple Ave. to the lot at 743 Maple Ave.

Finances were another reason, Tillotson said, the plan fell through. When he originally proposed moving the house, he wanted the Village Council to pay $133,000 to help cover the cost, with Tillotson paying for improvements to the home.

The council rejected that plan, instead offering Tillotson a 10-year, interest-free loan of $123,560.

"That was a major setback," he said.

Tillotson turned down the loan, calling it "financially unattractive." For the next month, he approached different groups in Downers Grove to see if there were any that would help pay back the loan. He got no takers.

"We didn't have the ability to move forward on the project because we had declined the loan offer," he said.

In early April, Tillotson decided to accept the loan, although he still felt it was a bad deal for him financially.

At the April 21 council meeting, commissioner Bob Barnett said it was "mind-boggling" the project fell apart. Though it had not officially been called off at that point, Tillotson said the effort was in flux and the state of the project constantly changed over the last week.

"I'm trying to figure out how we got to the point where we have a creative deal worked out on March 3 and … it's accepted 35 days later … and then within one week, all of a sudden, we don't have time to figure this out. It's really disappointing," Barnett said. "Everybody I know – this council, this staff, residents, neighbors, friends – was hoping to find a way to save this house."

At the meeting, Mayor Martin Tully said as long as the house is standing, there is still an opportunity to save it.