Experts gather to save historic estate

Village officials part of panel discussion aimed at preserving County Line Road home

The eight-bedroom, seven-bath home at 505 S. County Line Road is more than just an old house for sale, listing agent Dawn McKenna of Coldwell Banker said.

It's an iconic 120-year-old home that sits on the largest property in Hinsdale.

"Our first primary hope is to save this home," McKenna said. "I think my job as a broker is to do the best I can to do that."

To accomplish her goal, she organized a Jan. 19 event at the home, offering tours, champagne and charcuterie and inviting a panel of experts to discuss preserving and restoring the home.

"I invited the village because I knew they were unveiling some really cool incentives to incentivize people to save these old homes," she said. "I thought that this would be a wonderful way to unveil that and invite the community, not just all the Realtors.

"We invited the entire town and put a full-page ad in The Hinsdalean welcoming anybody and everybody," she added.

With help from members of the Dawn McKenna Group team on the North Shore, she was able to invite a host of architects, landscapers, writers, contractors, interior designers and others from Hinsdale, Chicago and other suburbs. More than 200 attended.

"They were thrilled to be a part of this," she said of attendees. "They were thrilled to have had a voice. I think the biggest takeaway is the home needs a voice, and it starts in the Village of Hinsdale with the people - and they showed up."

Village planner Bethany Salmon said the village has been contacted about the property since the first time the house was on the market and its recent listing on the public market.

"We've been contacted by several members of the community as well as some organizations about the preservation of this house," she said. "It's been on our radar for a bit."

Salmon and community development director Robb McGinnis were among the panelists, sharing information about the historic preservation incentives the Hinsdale Village Board approved in September.

"I was pleased that the entire tenor of this panel discussion was talking about how the property should be maintained whole," McGinnis said. "There was very little conversation about breaking it up."

The home, which sits on a 200-by-300-foot lot and lists for $4.99 million, is bordered by two corner lots. All three lots, which extend from Woodside to Sixth street and total 2.76 acres, can be purchased for $8.6 million.

"Ideally I would love one person to buy the whole enchilada," McKenna said.

The home itself would be eligible for preservation incentives that would make it easier to add a kitchen or great room, for example.

"If you put an addition on there, you can get more (space) than new construction," McGinnis said.

Given the size of the home, the rebate on the village portion of property taxes and the permit fee waivers could be significant.

The home also is in good condition, unlike some historic homes that have been demolished after falling into disrepair.

"It's been meticulously maintained, so it's not like the roof is caving in or there are things that need to be done because of deferred maintenance," McGinnis said.

An explanation of available incentives is on the village website at by clicking on the "Residents" tab and then "Historic preservation."

"Hopefully with this palette of incentives that people can avail themselves of, you can remove some questions so people are more willing to take a chance on an old house rather than deciding at the outset to scrape it because it's easy," McGinnis said.

"We hope someone buys it and preserves it," Salmon said. "That's the ultimate goal."

The home, originally designed by Joseph Corson Llewellyn, was redesigned in the early 20th century by notable Chicago architect David Adler. McKenna said she loves the sunlight in the Palm Beach room and the grand receiving room with its spectacular wallpaper (at a price tag of $6,000 a yard).

"It's a pretty magical house," McKenna said.

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean