Memorial Hall renovation proceeds in Richmond as new owner aims for spring opening

Group opposed to this year’s village sale turns attention to new project involving another building more than a century old

The new owner of the historic Memorial Hall structure in downtown Richmond plans to open it as a venue for weddings and other events by spring next year, Village President Toni Wardanian said.

Sam Everly, a partner of Midwest Arbor Corporation, who bought the property from the village earlier this year, will first need to obtain permits for plumbing and electrical upgrades in the building, Wardanian said.

For months, crews have been performing work on the structure that did not require village building permits, such as tuck-pointing its brick-and-mortar exterior and conducting other repairs.

But now Everly is preparing to start more intensive interior renovations, Wardanian said, and needs to gain permission for the work from the village.

More will be known about Everly’s final vision for the property once the permits are requested, but certain elements of the structure cannot be altered as it falls within a village historic district, where buildings are protected from being changed in certain ways without approval from the village’s community development committee.

Multiple attempts by the Northwest Herald to reach Everly were unsuccessful.

“He’s giving us little updates. They’ve fixed a lot of the exterior of the building,” Wardanian said. “The back was in pretty bad shape. They were working on that. Their electrician has registered with the village. They’re going to ask for the permits now. We’re gong to be a little bit more in the know. Everything they have been doing is general and just getting things ready to start rebuilding and fixing.”

Wardanian expects some of the work to involve replacing the brick surrounding the staircase leading up to the front of Memorial Hall, which was put in within the last few years and was not made from the same material as the façade of the building.

“It doesn’t match the rest. It sticks out like a sore thumb,” Wardanian said of the entryway.

Wardanian said Everly’s timeline for the startup of the new venue business is slightly delayed from the original goal of sometime this winter. The extra time is needed in part because the property requires repairs or upgrades that were not initially expected at the point of sale, she said.

“Once they actually got into the building, they saw, ‘Oh jeez, there is a lot we actually need to do before we can make it pretty again,’” Wardanian said.

While the move by the village government earlier this year to sell the building for $230,000 was opposed by a group of more than a dozen people, Jeremy Crutcher, a resident of a home adjacent to Memorial Hall, supported Everly’s purchase and renovation plans throughout the process, he said.

“I think it’s going to be great for the village to have high-end weddings and receptions,” Crutcher said.

He dismissed concerns expressed that the village losing control of a piece its history, noting the building will remain in place and may be used more often as a private event venue than it was as a public facility available for anyone to rent.

The opponents of the sale have since turned their attention to a new project involving another Richmond building constructed more than a century ago.

After their campaign to “Save Memorial Hall” ended in defeat, they formed the nonprofit W.A. McConnell Foundation, named after Richmond’s first settler, William A. McConnell, whose grandson left $10,000 in his will to be used for the construction of the Memorial Hall in the early 1900s.

Late last month, the group posted a video announcing it had purchased the community’s oldest structure, known as “Olde No. 90” at 10328 N. Main St., just north of Memorial Hall.

The nonprofit spent $95,000 in funds that were mostly donated, with a third of it loaned, to make the transaction, which also involved the group gaining an adjacent rental property, according to the McHenry County Historical Society.

“This building is 177 years old, and it was integral in Richmond’s development. We are proud to be able protect and honor its legacy for generations to come,” Rachel Prickett, the new foundation’s co-treasurer, said in the video alongside Adam Metz, the group’s president who ran for village president earlier this year and lost to Wardanian.

The foundation plans to raise funds with the goal of rehabilitating the building and using some of its space as an office and some as a meeting space for community groups, with hopes a small museum could be put in the building’s basement, according to the historical society.

The opposition to Memorial Hall’s sale had successfully deterred a Spring Grove businessman who considered buying the property and turning it into a concert hall from further pursuing that idea, but the village proceeded by selling it to Everly after the initial prospective buyer lost interest.

Richmond officials have said the village could not afford to put in the investment into repairs and upgrades of Memorial Hall that the building needed and required an injection of private support.

The village has the right of first refusal if Everly ever wishes to sell the property, per the sale agreement, officials have said.

Sam Lounsberry

Sam Lounsberry

Sam Lounsberry covers local government, business, K-12 education and all other aspects of life in McHenry County, in particular in the communities of Woodstock, McHenry, Richmond, Spring Grove, Wonder Lake and Johnsburg.