CRYSTAL LAKE – Handicap accessibility at the Colonel Palmer House could improve after the approval of a project to add a wheelchair ramp at the city’s only building listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Ann Viger, superintendent of planning and development for the Crystal Lake Park District, said the much-needed project has been years in the making after going through the detailed process of obtaining a certificate of appropriateness and meeting the city landmarking program requirements.
“We wanted a ramp back when we opened the house to the public in the early 2000s,” Viger said. “We couldn’t figure out the best way to add one, and it took a while to go through the process.”
Still, because of Americans with Disabilities Act regulations, the house had to be accessible to all when it opened to the public. Viger said a wheelchair lift that would be in and out of service had been used for the past decade, but the new ramp would be a more permanent and aesthetically pleasing option.
Viger said the ramp would be all wood and blend with the existing structure, sitting at the north end of the house and blocked from street view.
“Obviously a ramp would have never been done in the 1850s,” she said. “So we have to make sure it is done in a visually appropriate way and fitting with the other materials used at that time.”
Viger said she hopes the ramp can be constructed before winter weather sets in and expects it to cost about $10,000 if the park district uses in-house carpenters. Hiring outside contractors for the project could triple the cost, but Viger does not expect that to be needed.
The project is part of a larger face-lift for the historical building, which also received a $14,000 paint job recently to maintain the trimming on the exterior. Viger said tuck pointing also could be done in the near future.
“When a building is 155 years old, there is always a lot of work and maintenance to be done,” she said. “And it’s really grown in popularity the last five or six years. There is something happening almost every week.”
The house, on 660 E. Terra Cotta Ave., was home to McHenry County pioneer Gustavus A. Palmer and his wife. It now is used for community events, history presentations and research purposes.