Kelly Klobucher has childhood memories of taking tap dancing lessons in the living room of the large, brick Julius W. Hegeler I Home in La Salle when the YMCA was housed there.
“Now I’m in charge of fixing the floor,” she said.
As executive director of the Hegeler Carus Foundation, Klobucher is overseeing fundraising for restoration work on both the Hegeler Carus Mansion and the Hegeler Home across the street.
“It’s always about fundraising,” she said, explaining that donations have allowed restoration of the front entryway and some of the windows of the house on the south side of Seventh Street.
Ottawa Masonry has been hired to repair the brick work on the west side and partially across the front, while the windows on the north and west sides are being restored by TNT Construction of Odell, which specializes in conservation of historic structures.
“In preservation, windows are really important,” Klobucher said. “The windows are almost entirely original.”
TNT owner Tom Brockman is using a wood epoxy to restore the wood in the windows and front-door awning.
“We’ll sand that smooth, and it’ll look just like wood,” he said. “It actually has got the same characteristics of wood, and it’s supposed to last for 100 years.”
Brockman explained that he followed the U.S. Department of the Interior’s “Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties” in his work. The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“You save everything you can save,” he said.
In some of his restoration jobs, Brockman has replaced old wood with the same types of wood reclaimed from another old, torn-down building. Although he hasn’t yet done so at the Hegeler Home, he can tell what the type of wood in the windows: “old growth southern yellow pine.”
“You can smell it — actually, pine you can taste,” he said.
Klobucher said she had been advised to completely replace all the windows, but decided not to, given the estimated cost of $180,000. Instead, she opted to have the windows restored. The cost was difficult to estimate because some windows would need more work than others, Klobucher said, but she’s looking at a ballpark cost of $30,000, barring any unforeseen problems.
The foundation is spending about $55,000 — including windows, brick work and entryway renovation — for restoration this summer, Klobucher said.
Fundraising will continue to finance further improvements, Klobucher said, adding that the exterior of the house must be secure before work begins on the inside. Her goal is to make the house into a community center as she remembers it being in the past, as well as a venue for events.
“That house was a community center back in the ’70s and ’80s, and we want it to be a place that’s open to the community again,” Klobucher said. “It’s something the neighborhood needs; it’s something La Salle needs — we want it be accessible to everyone.”
Rachel Stella can be reached at (815) 220-6933 or email@example.com.