Thanks to a sizeable grant from the state of Illinois, the Park District of Oak Park (PDOP) has received necessary funding to install a geothermal heating and cooling system in the beautiful and Mills Park’s historic Pleasant Home, 217 Home Ave. 

“We couldn’t be happier,” said Diane Stanke, the park district’s marketing director.  

The installation of a geothermal system will provide more sustainable heating and cooling for the 123-year-old mansion.

“We strive to be leaders in sustainability not only in the state of Illinois, but across the country in the parks and recreation industry,” said Stanke. “This is just another step forward.”

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources announced the park district will receive $421,500 for the project, which is estimated to cost a total of $821,000. The funds were made available through the Illinois Public Museum Capital Grants Program.

The remaining cost will be covered by the park district’s capital improvement budget. 

A National Historic Landmark, Pleasant Home was designed by George H. Maher in 1897 as a family home. The park district acquired the mansion in 1939 and it became a popular venue for community events. For many decades it also housed the Historical Society of Oak Park and River Forest.

Pleasant Home was opened as a museum in 1990 with the creation of the Pleasant Home Foundation. While the park district owns the property, the foundation operates the museum.

Geothermal systems consist of a network of looped pipes that extend 500 feet below ground. The pipes are filled with a liquid, similar to anti-freeze, that helps to transfer the ground temperature to the geothermal heat pump, which, in the case of Pleasant Home, will be installed in the basement. 

“This grant will certainly allow both the Pleasant Home Foundation and the park district to do so much more at Pleasant Home,” said Stanke.

Due to the building’s advanced age, it has no air conditioning. As such, few events and programs are held in Pleasant Home during the summer. The installation of the geothermal system will keep the building cooler in times of hot weather, allowing for more summer events and programming. 

“This is really a great project; it’s very exciting,” said Stanke.

The geothermal system will also keep the interior heated during winter, as well as help to preserve the building and its contents through more regulated temperature control.

“We’re going to be protecting it for many, many generations to come,” said Stanke.

The park district put in geothermal systems in the Austin Gardens Environmental Education Center in 2016 and in the addition at the Carrol Center in 2020 with the help of grants worth about $500,000 from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation.

Pleasant Home will be the next to get the geothermal treatment. Oak Park-based Architectural Consulting Engineers will handle the installation of its geothermal system, which will begin next fall and is expected to take six months to complete. 

Architectural Consulting Engineers specializes in sustainable mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems for historic buildings. It is the same firm that handled the installation of the geothermal system in Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple on Lake Street in 2017.

“It’s very important and very exciting that we are able to do this with the help of the state of Illinois,” said Stanke.

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