Construction fences are ready to go up around Mayslake Hall in Oak Brook starting Monday, July 18.
Renovations on the 1920s Tudor revival-style mansion were supposed to begin on May 31. But the DuPage County Forest Preserve District, which has owned and operated the 89-acre Mayslake Peabody Estate since 1993, allowed more time for contractors to bid on the project.
“This project will essentially repair the entire building envelope,” said forest preserve landscape architect Mark Decker.
Using an egg analogy, Decker said to preserve the inside, the shell of the building needs to be fixed first.
“The steel that’s behind the masonry has started to corrode,” said Decker, adding that leaking water has damaged some of the building’s interiors.
The project includes brick and limestone masonry restoration. Some rotting exterior woodwork and stucco also will be selectively demolished and replaced with new materials to match the building’s historic profile.
Some of the renovations will also address changes made in the 1950s and 1960s by the Franciscan Province of the Sacred Heart, which took ownership of Mayslake Peabody Estate in 1926 following the death of the building’s original owner, coal baron Francis Stuyvesant Peabody.
For example, aluminum window frames are to be replaced with more historically accurate materials in accordance with the Illinois State Historic Preservation Office.
“Because we did receive state funds — the project received $750,000 from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ museum capital improvement program — these plans had to be approved by the state,” Decker said.
Mayslake Hall will be closed for about a year, with one major exception: The west wing will remain open for First Folio Theatre to produce its 2022-23 season of four subscription shows.
“We have in the construction schedule that the sidewalk replacement has to be completed by Nov. 1,” said Decker, noting that First Folio Theatre’s “Jeeves Intervenes” begins preview performances the day after on Nov. 2.
The professional nonprofit theater has been in residence at Mayslake since 1997. But First Folio’s leaders previously announced that they plan to disband in 2023 following the company’s final season production of Shakespeare’s comedy “Twelfth Night.”
Throughout the construction project, the general public will also be allowed to access the grounds of the Mayslake Peabody Estate. Decker also said that the forest preserve is in talks with volunteer gardeners to possibly replace one of Mayslake Hall’s heritage English gardens with one devoted to native Midwestern plant species and pollinators.
Mayslake Hall was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1994. It is noted for being one of the last remaining examples of the country estates that dotted DuPage County between 1880 and 1924.