One of the most endangered properties in Illinois is a modest family home built around 1850 for an early DuPage County settler.
Oak Cottage, located at 23W171 Hobson Road near Naperville in unincorporated DuPage County, served as family home for William Briggs Greene and is considered an important piece of local agriculture history according to Landmarks Illinois, a preservation organization.
Landmarks Illinois recently included Oak Cottage among its 2023 Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois, which also called attention to nine culturally and architecturally significant sites across the state that face growing threats of disinvestment and demolition.
The home is now owned by the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, which could consider demolishing it for open space if a third party does not propose a viable reuse for it.
“Oak Cottage is so much more than an iconic American white farmhouse,” Becky Simon, president, Naperville Preservation, said in a Landmarks Illinois summary. “It is a window into the cultural heritage of the Naperville area … (and) has been witness to the full circle transformation of the prairie into farmland and back again into prairie as part of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County.”
Greene’s grandson, William Bertram Greene, donated the property to the district in 1971 and establishing an endowment for the perpetual guardianship of the land and buildings.
In 1998, the FPDDC approved an ordinance to care for Oak Cottage and its accompanying Greene Barn in perpetuity. Today, Oak Cottage and the Greene Barn together provide a window into American agricultural settlement and the continuing development patterns of DuPage County.
“Oak Cottage served as the hub of the Greene family farm, which was an economic engine for DuPage County,” Simon said. “At a time when Naperville’s agricultural history is being actively celebrated in museums and honored in bronze statues, it is important to preserve its original agricultural structures in situ.”
The FPDDC hired a consulting firm to complete framework plans for the Blackwell, Greene Valley and Waterfall Glen Forest Preserves. The first draft framework plan for Greene Valley, released in June 2022, recommended demolition of Oak Cottage.
After public pushback, a second draft recommended documenting the history and structure of Oak Cottage and establishing a timeframe of three years or less for a third-party to propose a new use. If no new use can be found within the specified timeframe, Oak Cottage may still be demolished.
Local advocates would like the FPDDC to support a feasibility study to determine an adaptive reuse path that includes community-facing uses.
A Request for Expressions of Interest would help to identify interested partners. Requests for funding support can be made to the Greene Family Forest Preserve Endowment Fund and the Friends of the Greene Barn and Oak Cottage Fund.
The 2023 Most Endangered sites are located in the following counties: Alexander, Coles, Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and St. Clair. Visit www.Landmarks.org to learn more about each site.