Frequently Asked Questions

What is Evanston Lakehouse and Gardens?

Your Gateway to the Great Lakes - a place that celebrates our greatest natural resource, Lake Michigan.  Evanston Lakehouse will feature an environmental core theme and an environmnetal education center where kids and adults alike can learn about the lake, the environment, the challenges of climate change and how we can address them.  It will be a perfect place for hands-on science and outdoor education.  It will also provide a peaceful and beautiful setting for people of all ages to connect with the environment, get outdoors, and enjoy one of our greatest assets.

Exhibit, Museum and Education Partnerships
The property can host education partnerships, holistic classes, revolving museum collaborations, visiting exhibitions and entertainment… year-round open access with limited closings for event rentals.
Seasonal Community Events
Each season this glorious estate can host a variety of seasonal weekend events for visitors of all ages.  Examples could include:  Local restaurant food tasting, local craft-beer fest, October haunted house, spring antique show, winter holiday cookie market…
and more.
Premiere Event, Meeting and Recreation Space
The Mansion will host premiere lakefront event and meeting space rental, boasting 20,000 feet of vibrant space including grand 1st floor lake-view rooms, a magnificently restored glass conservatory, 2nd floor tech room and grand library, 3rd floor ballroom space and a modern basement recreation center.
Coach House Cafe
The Coach House will be converted into a comfortable light-fare café, open year-round.


Is this about the Harley Clarke property at the 2600 block of Sheridan in Evanston, IL?

Yes! Our vision is to revitalize this property into Evanston Lakehouse & Gardens, a public community space for all to enjoy.


What’s Harley Clarke anyway?

The Harley Clarke mansion is the former location of the Evanston Art Center, a city owned mansion situated in the center of Light House Landing Park located N.E Evanston. The Light House Landing Park campus is home to the Evanston Lighthouse, Noah’s Playground, Light House Beach and the Harley Clarke Mansion.

The Harley Clarke property continues to make headlines in Evanston and throughout Chicago as residents oppose plans to sell this valuable public asset and prefer the property remain in the public domain as intended when it was purchased for the City of Evanston in 1964.

(See Learn the Story for more history.)


Is keeping it public the way to go?

Yep, and we think you’ll love it. Imagine it as a community space... a community mansion that's on the lake and open to the public for event rental, meeting space, seasonal events, recreation and education partnerships. 

The house and historic Jens Jensen gardens will be thoughtfully restored to include a refreshed interior space with a new café in the coach house.  Best of all, you can have access to the house, gardens and café year round – it’s your place.


Is this plan "privatizing" the property?

Evanston Lakehouse & Gardens is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit public charity.  Ownership of the property would remain with the City of Evanston. Evanston Lakehouse & Gardens, an executive staff and hired personnel will facilitate restoration, operate and preserve the property for community use. In fact, many successful historic mansions function using this same model.


Who’s going to pay for all this?

Private donations, both big and small, from people like you, who believe in the long-term vision of this historic property. Evanston is good at supporting worthwhile initiatives; this one is no different.

Once restoration is complete, the community mansion will self-sustain using a detailed financial plan mirroring the same financial strategies that work for similar public mansion conversions in Chicago and around the country. Limited event rental, café lease and steward programming are examples of revenue creation.


How will a "community mansion and gardens" impact the surrounding neighborhood?

Our neighbors are a priority.   For 50 years, the Evanston Art Center held classes and events while maintaining a positive impact on the neighborhood.  That’s our goal too.

Event capacity and general usage will be managed with the utmost respect to the neighborhood, especially during the summer months, when the beach and park are busy.


What about parking?

Events and programming will be designed to not conflict with summer parking – June through August.  During the remaining 9 months, September through May, parking is readily available on property. Additionally, there are two spacious parking lots nearby that have been used in the past for special events and valet service.


Has the City Of Evanston agreed to this plan?

According to a recent survey conducted by the City of Evanston this Spring, 2015, the residents of Evanston overwhelmingly support a plan to keep Evanston Lakehouse & Gardens public.  We continue to negotiate that plan with the City Council.  Your support matters.


How can I  help?