CHICAGO (CBS) — The Morning Insiders take us inside the fight to save an old Joliet house from demolition.
Preservationists said the Casseday Mansion is historically significant and worth saving. They plan to speak out at Tuesday’s city council meeting.
But CBS 2’s Lauren Victory found their David vs. Goliath battle might already be over.
“It’s a done deal, period, case closed,” an attorney representing Thorntons said at a recent city council meeting. Thorntons wants to put up a gas station where the Casseday Mansion now stands.
But a trio of Joliet history lovers isn’t stopping their fight to block it.
“We need to work out a compromise,” said retired Joliet city planner Barb Newberg.
Mary Beth Gannon, a member of the Joliet Historic Preservation Commission, said the mansion has been standing through seven generations of her family.
“I want it around another seven generations,” she said.
Newberg, Gannon, and Steven Wright started an online petition to try to save the mansion.
“I feel like I’m a voice for the younger generation,” Wright said.
The Casseday Mansion dates back to the mid-1800s, and a man named George Washington Casseday.
This is an example of vernacular limestone architecture that may have had a commercial purpose,” Newberg said. “This is important. It has to be saved.”
“Joliet does not a have a great track record with preserving its history,” Wright said.
The mansion is one of the oldest buildings in Will County.
“We cannot afford to lose another building,” Gannon said.
But that appears to be exactly what’s going to happen. Talks to physically move the home off the lot where it now stands fell through over questions of who would pay.
“It was a huge shock to us,” Gannon said.
The Illinois State Historic Preservation Office essentially signed off on the demolition.
A spokesperson described an agreement as “a way for the history of the building to be preserved while the project moves forward.”
Translation? Some of the limestone blocks from the mansion must be saved. Photos and a description of the building need to be filed with the Library of Congress.
However, the home itself could be destroyed.
In a last ditch effort, preservationists recently filed an application to landmark the home.
“I filed paperwork to locally landmark the house with the city of Joliet,” Gannon said. “If my interpretation of the city municipal code is correct, by filing paperwork, I will stop demolition and force public hearings.”
A spokesperson for the Joliet Law Department said it’s “fantasy” that the home can be saved at this point, because preservationists started far too late in the process.
Regardless, Casseday Mansion supporters planned to show up at the Joliet City Council meeting on Tuesday.
Gannon said she plans to voice her concerns at the meeting, but it’s apparently a legal gray area, because the landmark application was filed after the demolition permit.
When asked to comment on the controversy, Thorntons said, “we would like to pass at this time.”
At least one city council member seems unsympathetic to the fight to save the home, telling CBS 2 “As you know, we are not a police state and individuals have rights over their personal property.”