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1930s schoolhouse in path of IDOT project near Union

State tells preservationists: Move it or it will be demolished

UNION – State transportation officials in mid-November left Union residents without a decision on the future intersection design at Route 20 and Harmony Road.

But they sent a clear message to the McHenry County Historical Society and other residents interested in preserving a 1930s-era schoolhouse located nearby the intersection.

Move it, officials said, or it will be demolished.

“It’s going to have to be moved,” said Bob Frenz, the society’s board president. “It’s not the best possible outcome, but it certainly is better than seeing the bulldozer come in.”

The historical society hoped for better news in early September. The Illinois transportation department suspended its project to upgrade the intersection with a traffic circle after residents criticized officials for moving too fast toward construction.

With the project on hold, state officials returned to Union on Nov. 13 to weigh the costs between a traditional traffic light and a roundabout in a public meeting. Officials likely won’t decide on a design until January.

In either design scenario, state officials indicated they would acquire the Harmony Road schoolhouse, unless a private buyer decides to move and preserve it. The state, per policy, would not provide assistance but would give a buyer time to plan the move.

Harmony Real Estate now occupies the schoolhouse, which is owned by the Feldkamp estate. Built in 1931, the schoolhouse has many original traits, including blackboards and hardwood floors.

Faced with restricted options, Frenz said the society had to quickly give up on its goal to preserve the school at its original location.

Moving the school also would be too costly for the society and its limited budget.

But the local historians were happy to hear that an group recently expressed interest in buying, preserving and moving the building to a nearby location.

Coral Township Supervisor Roger Naylor said he has been speaking with the interested businesspeople, who can generate the money and resources to move the building. He also is talking with the state on its timetable to again start upgrading the intersection.

The state has said project construction still could start in the spring. With time limited, Naylor said the township will work diligently with the interested buyers in finalizing a deal.

“That building is quite unique and certainly from our perspective, it’s a property to be preserved,” Naylor said. “It’s not something that will be lost.”

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