Donors help retire Barrington’s White House loan a year early

By Gregory Harutunian For Chronicle Media

The Barrington White House as it appeared in 2006.

A $5.5 million loan that was secured by the village of Barrington and applied to the restoration of the iconic White House in the heart of the downtown has been repaid one year early, saving the municipality approximately $35,000 in extra interest fees. Village officials announced that their ability to retire the loan came through the receipt of year-end donations from pledge donors. The monies were then forwarded for disbursement as the final installment payment.

The loan was administered through the Barrington Bank and Trust, and repayment was contingent upon the community’s individual pledges to finance the White House restoration project. The village-owned structure was built in 1898, by John Robertson Jr., and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The site is now named the Barrington White House Cultural and Community Center.

“We’re thrilled the effort was so successful and garnered so much community support in fundraising to pay for the restoration of the building,” said Barrington Village President Karen Darch. “There are now cultural events, booking for private events, and weddings, to help with its ongoing operations and maintain a self-sustaining revenue stream.

The Barrington White House after its restoration in 2016. (Photo courtesy of Barrington White House)

“It’s village-owned, built in 1898, and was part of a desire to use this beautiful building and historic icon in the downtown to maintain its elegance through its storied life,” she said.

Robertson Jr., and his wife, Julia, lived in the residence until 1918. Called the White House, due to the exterior, subsequent uses were as a hospital, nursing home, residential site, and office space. The building was purchased by the village, along with three adjacent properties in 2007. The $2.1 million price was funded through the creation of a tax-increment-financing district meant to assist with the area’s development.

“I was on the village board at the time, and it was part of a municipal redevelopment plan within the master municipal comprehensive plan,” said Beth Raseman, the facility’s manager. “Several properties east of the building were acquired to make it easier for a developer. We did get a mixed-use developer, but when the market dropped in 2008, everything fell apart. At that point, the village wanted to wait until the market was ready.

“The circumstances allowed the village time to reinvest, starting in 2012, and there were needed upgrades for code compliance such as fire sprinklers, elevators, environmental remediation, ADA-compliant access … a host of things,” she said. “We had a grand opening in 2015, which coincided with the village’s 150th sesquicentennial anniversary. There were free community events and basically getting the operations started.”

Raseman estimated the overall cost of renovations came in at $6.7 million. The restoration presented some hurdles with the years of remodeling literally being peeled away to discover the original work. Each of the three floors had their own inherent issues.

“There was a ballroom on the third floor, built in 1898, and that was difficult. Modern construction methods let us put interior steel supports that allow the room to hold 150 people,” she said. “The interior ballroom frame supports give an unobstructed view, a really elegant space. The first floor is for community purposes, the second floor has the bridal room and three offices leased by nonprofit agencies.”

The Barrington-based firm of Pepper Construction, Inc. undertook the actual restoration job order, and local firms provided the engineering. The iconic structure, located at 145 Main St. in Barrington, has always been a visible part of the downtown.

The amount of funds required for the restoration project were procured through donations, and the village board needed pledges at an 80 percent level, before it would proceed with the loan procurement. Nearly 30 individual pledge donations were received by the village at the end of 2018. One endowment from the Daughters of the American Revolution-Signal Hill Chapter is being earmarked for period docent costumes.

Raseman noted, “As for the White Houses restoration, the reward in all this is the history and connection to the community with new use that complements the center of town, the renewed energy, and the pride that it brought to our community.”

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