Cook Mansion rededicated in Libertyville
After rehabbing the exterior of the Cook Mansion, officials held a rededication ceremony. A small crowd gathers in front of the Cook mansion. | Rob Dicker~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 12, 2012 1:29AM
LIBERTYVILLE — Built in 1878, the prestigious Cook Mansion has served as a home, a library and a topic of conversation in Libertyville for more than a century.
Amidst the bustle and foot traffic of the center of Libertyville’s downtown sits the mansion, its vintage exterior completing Libertyville’s classic overcoat.
During recent years, though, the stately mansion was showing clear signs of decay, including wood so rotten a person could peer into the interior through gaping holes.
Not so today, after a request for a simple paint touch-up quote resulted in a full-on renovation of the mansion’s exterior and the bonding of community members for a preservation cause.
Among those in attendance for a rededication ceremony at Cook Park on North Milwaukee Avenue Sept. 6 were Libertyville Mayor Terry Weppler and Village Trustees Jim Moran and Richard Moras.
Also paying a visit were residents Beth March and Carol Calabresa.
“It’s an important focal point of the community,” said March, who, along with her husband, Steven, was among those who donated toward the effort.
“If we don’t take the initiative to keep buildings of historical value from deteriorating and looking dreadful, it will reflect poorly on the community,” March said.
Carol Calabresa spoke of the admiration her children have for the Cook Mansion and their eagerness to take visiting friends from college on Sunday afternoon tours.
“Just look around you,” said Calabresa, “it’s perfect. It’s like a Norman Rockwell painting.”
The original homeowner, Ansel B. Cook, was a state legislator who was instrumental in the building of the Water Tower on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. The home was left to the village of Libertyville in 1920 after the death of Cook’s third wife, Emily, sister to his second wife.
The mansion was to be used as the town library, and so it was until 1967, when a major renovation was done and the Cook Memorial Public Library was built adjacent to the mansion.
Since then, the mansion has served as the home of the Libertyville-Mundelein Historical Society and houses their archives.
Mike Foley of Highland Park-based DiVinci Painters Inc. noticed an immediate need for the mansion’s repair upon first inspecting the damage. Wood was so rotten that water damage threatened the archives.
Foley paired with Roch Tranel of Tranel Financial Group of Libertyville to form the nonprofit group Paint the Town Foundation, breathing life into the hope of preserving the Cook Mansion.
With the help of local and private donors, the village of Libertyville and the Libertyville-Mundelein Historical Society, the Cook Mansion was restored.
On Thursday morning, after eight weeks, 1,179 man hours, 32 gallons of stripper, 14 bags of stucco cement, 26 tubes of caulk and 57 gallons of paint, the mansion was rededicated to the town of Libertyville with its new Victorian-Colonial hybrid façade.
The $55,000-plus project was funded by corporate and private donors to the tune of $23,831. The Rockland Elementary School sold hand-made stationary to raise funds for the restoration. Benjamin Moore and Olympic Equipment Rentals donated more than $11,000 worth of supplies, including paint in Richmond bisque, white and high-gloss black.
“When I was told the needed work (was cost-prohibitive), I just knew we could get it done without cost to the village,” said Foley. “Roch didn’t hesitate when I asked for his help, and the community really took it upon themselves to make this happen. It’s just great.”
The Cook Mansion is open for Sunday afternoon tours June-August as well as by appointment. The mansion is part of the Victorian Christmas Celebration. There is also much attention come Halloween as speculations fly in regards to the mysterious death of the mansion’s gardener in 1885.
The Paint the Town Foundation is continuing to accept donations for the restoration project and for the Cook Mansion’s continued preservation.
Donations can be made via check or paypal. The address and paypal link are at www.paintthetownfoundation.com.