Picturesque village

Palatine should sue the historic preservation commission

Nathan and Philip Etter burst with pride as they talk about their adopted home and town.

The couple moved five years ago from Chicago to a 136-year-old Palatine home, a Queen Anne Victorian home in North Plum Grove Road and Colfax Street which over the years has housed a nursing home and practice. ‘lawyers. They bought it in 2018.

The Etters love the house’s features, from the eye-catching turret to the original wooden railing. Add to that its inviting porch and quaint landscaping, and this lovely home wouldn’t be out of place in a Hallmark vacation movie.

But the couple discovered something disturbing: Palatine does not have a historic preservation program. If the Etters – or future owners – wanted to demolish this slice of local history, they could.

As journalist Elena Ferrarin reported on Monday, Nathan and Philip Etter spoke at the village council meeting last week to urge members to create a historic preservation commission in the Palatine.

While many homeowners might bristle with a historic designation that could limit their future options, the Etters take a longer-term view: they want to protect their home and others like it.

And the village should too.

The couple proposed a commission that would oversee a voluntary historical program. As part of the plan, owners of historic homes and buildings could seek a local landmark designation, which would require permission to make architectural alterations to exteriors and prohibit owners from simply demolishing them.

Similar commissions are in place in Arlington Heights, Barrington, Naperville and other cities. The Etters point out that these suburbs were able to preserve the quaint charm and history of older buildings while progressing with vibrant city centers.

Brittany Niequist, a member of the Crystal Lake Historic Preservation Commission, says marking homes is about respecting the past while keeping an eye on the future.

“A lot of council members have this fear that by marking houses it will somehow push the city away or deter people from buying those properties,” she said. “What I’m seeing right now is this growing trend, especially among young people who are deliberately looking for historic homes to buy.”

Preservation, in other words, can exist with progress. Municipalities have a responsibility to protect both.

The Palatine village council has asked staff to consider the Etters’ request. This is a reasonable first step, which should be followed by careful consideration.

After all, once you’ve allowed a stately, historic mansion to be reduced to rubble, there’s no turning back.