Total makeover?: The Forest Preserve District wants to renovate this pavilion.Photos by J. GEIL/Photo Editor

A limestone pavilion in Thatcher Woods that’s been out of commission for more than a decade might soon come back to life with a $500,000 shot in the arm.

The Forest Preserve District of Cook County, which owns Thatcher Woods, is eyeing a complete renovation of the two-story pavilion, located near Thatcher and Chicago avenues. The structure was built in the 1930s, but hasn’t been fully utilized in more than 15 years.

Now, the forest preserve plans to invest half a million to add new doors, windows, insulation, heat, air conditioning, and even a catering kitchen. They hope the long-neglected building will become a community meeting center once the upgrades are complete, according to Jim Havlat, an in-house architect for the forest preserve.

“We have some of these older limestone buildings which are almost the historical marquee of the district, and we haven’t touched this one in a long time for any substantial amount,” he said. “We want to restore and keep things that are important to us in place.”

The eastern-most portion of the pavilion has restored public restrooms, and the roof has already been fixed up. But the western portion has been closed for years, Havlat said. The forest preserve district is in the process of having the renovations designed, he said, and hopes to go out to bid soon, with the work to be completed by early fall of 2012.

Oak Parker Victor Guarino — a master steward of Thatcher Woods — has long advocated for restoring the pavilion. He went on a tour of the structure recently and was impressed by its design, which includes two huge fireplaces and soaring rafters.

“It’s amazing when you go inside,” Guarino said. “You couldn’t build anything like that today.”

The forest preserve district first built the pavilion in 1931, as part of a $3 million development program during the Great Depression, which also included the construction of the forest preserve’s headquarters, 536 N. Harlem Ave.

It’s a common misconception that the pavilion was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, a public work relief program started by Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s, according to Frank Lipo, head of the Historical Society of Oak Park and River Forest. Rather, it was funded by a $2.5 million bond issued by the forest preserve to complete 11 major projects following a referendum in 1930.

In addition, the forest preserve district is eyeing some interior upgrades to its 80-year-old headquarters in River Forest, as well as the shelter at the northwest corner of Harlem and Lake. At the headquarters, those could include energy efficiency updates, and changes to make the building more accessible for the disabled, Havlat said.

He stressed that they don’t plan on messing with the outside of the neo-Tudor headquarters.

“It’s a unique, old, historic-looking building, so we wouldn’t do anything to change the character of it. We’ll be very sensitive, and most of the work is interior,” Havlat said.

The work comes at the tail end of 10 years worth of updating forest preserve facilities, funded by a $50 million bond several years back, he added. Work at the headquarters and shelter is yet to be scheduled.

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