Plans for a “Gateway Park” at Illinois 59 and U.S. 30 – once the crossroads of Route 66 and the Lincoln Highway – have been revived by the chairman of the Historic Preservation Commission.
Michael Bortell told the Board Monday that he plans to apply for a $5,000 matching grant from the National Park Service to fund a redevelopment study for the .925-acre site, which is one of the most historic in the village.
The gas station that once anchored the triangle-shaped property was removed last year by the Illinois Department of Transportation as part of the Illinois 59 widening project, Bortell said. A historically significant house known as the Corbin-Bingham-Worst residence remains, as does another house and two detached garages, he said.
The plan would be to restore the historic house as a visitors center, surrounding it with park land and parking for 10 to 12 cars, he said. The other structures would be demolished, he said.
Village trustees had previously charged the historic commission with exploring the creation of a “gateway” at the intersection, but the project stalled when the property owner – G.C. Real Estate of Lincolnshire – set a selling price that was deemed too steep, Bortell said.
Since then, however, Bortell has persuaded G.C. to not only reconsider that price, but to support his effort to land the federal grant and to contribute $2,500 toward the match money needed. The village would provide the other $2,500. The company has also agreed to tear down the non-historic house and the two garages, Bortell said.
Mayor Michael Collins commended Bortell for “single-handedly revising and revisiting all aspects” of the project, which village officials had considered dormant.
Bortell will know by mid-May if he is successful in landing the grant. The project is of particular appeal to him, he said, because it would not only celebrate the only place in the country where two of the most famous cross-county roads intersect but would preserve the land on which the village’s first industrial business, the Dillman Foundry, was built in 1848.
As for the house, it belonged to one of the first families to settle in Plainfield within the first 20 years of the town's establishment and was home to Plainfield's second doctor, Oliver J. Corbin.
Bortell admits that part of his motivation is to keep yet another historic house from being torn down, with nothing built in its place. He said he believes it would be very difficult for the property to be used for a commercial business given its shape and size.
If Bortell is successful in landing the grant, it will fund an appraisal to determine the site’s fair market value and pay architects to develop a concept plan for the land and house. Arris Architects and Designers and Upland Design, both located in Plainfield, have committed to doing the job for 50 percent less than their normal fee, Bortell said.
The study would also require assistance from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency in determining the house’s structural integrity. A committee made up of members of the Historic Preservation Commission, Plainfield Village Board, planning department, Plainfield Historical Society, Village Preservation Association and interested neighbors would be formed to develop the plan, he said.