Historic home likely to have new owners

Grace Church congregation has voted to sell William Whitney house at 142 E. First St.

If the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago agrees, Grace Episcopal Church will sell the National Register home at 142 E. First St. that has served as its rectory since 1994.

Church members voted 161-8 this month to sell the property.

"We felt it was the right time to right-size our campus footprint," said Sarah Tims, junior warden at Grace, noting the needs of the congregation have changed over the past three decades.

The customs of churches having multiple full-time clergy and owning a rectory have become less prevalent.

"All of those are less and less common, and the vestry felt it was important for our future that we acknowledge those trends and don't try to maintain a model that the current parish doesn't support," Tims said.

The 1869 home was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1989 and named a Hinsdale Historic Preservation Award winner in 1990. The church had it added to the village's Historically Significant Structures Property List last year.

"We thought that would be prudent, whether or not the congregation moved forward with the sale," she said.

The church could have taken advantage of the incentives offered by the village to make improvements if the congregation had decided to keep the home. None of the designations protect the home from demolition.

"Hopefully we've done whatever possible to preserve the home as an important part of Hinsdale's history, and setting the next owner up for success was important to us," Tims said.

The timing of the decision coincides with the church's search for a new rector. That individual and his or her family could live in the home the church built on the west side of its property after the campus was expanded in the 1990s, Tims said.

Tims said she couldn't speculate on the potential sale price. Online estimates set it at about $1 million. Proceeds would be put into an endowment to help meet the church's present and future needs, Tims said.

"We're excited about how it can continue to further Grace's mission," she said.

All but 54 of the church's 223 eligible members participated in the vote.

"We worked really hard to make sure everyone who was eligible was informed on the decision and was able to make their voices heard," Tims said. "Even though we didn't get to 100 percent participation in that vote, we had good turnout. The preference among those who did vote was pretty decisive. I felt that was important.

"I think it's important for your readers and the community to know this wasn't a decision we took lightly," she added.

She's not sure how long it will take for the diocese to approve the sale.

"We're not anywhere near this being a sure thing, but certainly it's not secret, and we want to make sure the community understands why we made this decision," Tims said.

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean