The Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) was established in 1992 as a continuation of the City’s long tradition of taking proactive steps to preserve the historic character of Lake Forest. The Commission reviews projects that are within the 5 local historic districts and pertain to landmark buildings located throughout the city. Proposals are evaluated against 17 standards and during the monthly hearings the Commission asks questions to better understand the petitioners’ intent and often suggests considerations for improvements to assist petitioners in complying with these standards, with the ultimate goal of being able to recommend the project for approval. The standards apply to the exterior appearance of structures and the landscaping of the property. Examples of projects that might come before the commission are demolitions, new construction, additions, and alterations to existing properties.
The commission is comprised of 7 Lake Forest residents who are nominated by the Lake Forest Caucus and appointed by the Mayor with the approval of the City Council to serve a maximum of three 2-year terms. While some knowledge of architecture and preservation is necessary across the commission, the Caucus Committee seeks out candidates that will bring different perspectives and a variety of experience from their past experiences to the commission. Current HPC Chair, Maureen Grinnell, who grew up in Lake Forest and graduated from LFHS, started her career in marketing and communications before purchasing a historic home and moving back to Lake Forest. Her experience working through projects on her own home and her involvement in the Lake Forest Preservation Foundation encouraged her initial interest in preservation. This, combined with her desire to give back to the City of Lake Forest, led to her appointment to the HPC in 2021. While her career isn’t in architecture or construction, she does draw on her professional experience as a marketer, trainer and coach to help her be an effective leader of the HPC. Her professional experience with branding and customer experience has also allowed her to relate to businesses looking to establish or expand their presence in our historic business district. Ultimately Maureen sees the role of the HPC as “protecting the architectural and visual elements that caused many of us to move to Lake Forest in the first place”.
The pandemic has led to an influx of new residents into Lake Forest and has changed how many of us think about utilizing our homes. In recent months the HPC has been reviewing many requests for modifications to garages and other exterior structures as residents seek to modernize their historic residences and adapt them for modern living. Regardless of whether or not your property is in a historic district, it’s a good idea to contact the City staff if you are planning any major modifications to structures to ensure compliance with applicable standards. For residents that might not be familiar with the HPC, Grinnell recommends contacting City staff, reviewing the resources available through the City of Lake Forest website, attending an HPC meeting and joining the Lake Forest Preservation Foundation. According to Grinnell, the HPC is “open to progress in a compatible way and wants to balance ties to the past with a view to the future”. This blending of the past and future will help ensure Lake Forest continues to be a desirable place for residents and business alike for generations to come.