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Harvard's Coventry Home one step closer to local historic landmark status

HARVARD – Harvard’s William H. Coventry Home and Barn off Route 14 is in the process of becoming a local historic landmark in an attempt to save the deteriorating building, McHenry County Historical Society Administrator Kurt Begalka said.

“If we don’t do something with this building soon, there’s going to be nothing left,” Begalka said.

The historical society recommended to the McHenry County Historic Preservation Commission that the farmstead become a landmark, Begalka said.

At its Dec. 15 meeting, the McHenry County Board approved an intergovernmental agreement with the city of Harvard, a step that was necessary for the county to move forward with the landmark designation, Sean Foley said.

Foley, staff liaison for the McHenry County Historic Preservation Commission, said making the farmstead a landmark would make it harder to be demolished. Currently, the power to demolish it rests with the owners of the property, Optima Harvard Facility LLC, Foley said.

The home is on the Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois list. Built in 1855, the house and its outbuildings are part of the embattled Motorola campus in Harvard, which has sat vacant since 2003.

Optima Ventures, the Miami-based company that owns the manufacturing plant and 287 acres it sits on, has been sued by ComEd for more than $545,000 in unpaid electric bills. The property also has a tax lien against it after the owners failed to pay $300,000 in property taxes in 2014.

Owners did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Charles Eldredge, executive director of the Harvard Economic Development Corp., said the city is very interested in restoring and preserving the farmstead. The city approved its part of the intergovernmental agreement regarding the home at its City Council meeting Nov. 24, according to meeting minutes.

“It is the north entrance to town, and it has both architectural and historical significance,” Eldredge said.

He said the corporation has reached out to the owners of the farmstead, hoping they will donate it or let a nonprofit restore it, but has not heard from them.

Foley said the Historic Preservation Commission will review the application at its Jan. 6 meeting. After that, it still would need a public hearing and to be reviewed by the County Board.

Even if the farmstead gets landmark status, it doesn’t necessarily mean the structure will be saved, Begalka said.

“All it does is it provides an extra threshold that somebody has to go through before they tear something down,” he said.

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