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Timeless tie-in: Preschool, historic home to share New Lenox site

TinKevGoodwowners Triple R Child Care Mokenare building new center New Lenox adjacent Haven-Francis home which they donated New Lenox AreHistorical

Tina and Kevin Goodwin, owners of Triple R Child Care in Mokena, are building a new center in New Lenox, adjacent to the Haven-Francis home, which they donated to the New Lenox Area Historical Society. | Supplied photo

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Updated: December 7, 2013 6:08AM



There was no generation gap, but rather a blending of young and old, as ground was broken Wednesday morning on a new preschool that will share land with a historic New Lenox home.

Preschoolers who helped turn over the dirt on land at 220 E. Haven Ave. someday will learn about the Haven and Francis families who lived in the two-story Victorian home 100 years ago.

Kevin and Tina Goodwin, of Triple R Child Care, donated the home to the New Lenox Area Historical Society, which hopes to turn it into a museum.

The Goodwins will build a 6,400-square-foot child care center behind the home, and it will share a driveway and parking lot with the future museum.

“We were happy to work around the house. It’s a treasure,” Tina Goodwin said.

It’s also the “perfect” location for Triple R’s second preschool, because it is close to the Metra commuter station and on a “quiet and safe street,” she said. They recently bought the property from Silver Cross Hospital.

The Goodwins operate a child care center at 9500 W. LaPorte Road in Mokena and will expand to two locations when the new facility opens in June 2014.

“For the first time since Haven School closed (in the late 1990s, when it became a district office), there will be children’s voices in the neighborhood,” historical society chairwoman Lori Lindberg said.

The historical society plans to landmark the house, which was home to two prominent local families, headed by Dwight Haven, an early settler; and John Francis, a longtime New Lenox Township supervisor. Francis’ wife Hazel lived there until her death in 2004 at age 102.

The house, built in about 1900, is structurally sound but will need some loving care, Tina Goodwin said.

Lindberg hopes local tradesmen and the community will embrace an effort to repair the four-bedroom home and fill it with period-appropriate furniture and memorabilia.

“We hope to time the opening of our museum with the opening of the new preschool,” Lindberg said.

The historical society already has received some dining room and bedroom furniture, now in the home, but work remains to be done on the roof, the porch and the interior.

It soon will receive another donation of old house documents. While clearing shrubbery that surrounded the house, Tina Goodwin said, they found a metal box outside filled with documents dating from 1910 to 1920, including old insurance papers that valued the home at $1,600, and papers with John Francis’ signature, which she also will donate to the historical society. She also unearthed a china plate and a horseshoe.

At the groundbreaking ceremony, developer Brian Rigsby said it was “a fun, collaborative effort” with the village, the historical society and Triple R.

Initial plans included an office building on the corner of Haven Avenue and Prairie Road, but that was dropped when neighbors opposed it, fearing it would not fit in with the neighborhood.

“This is exactly the kind of effort that makes New Lenox a great place to live and work,” said state Rep. Renee Kosel, R-New Lenox.

Finally, village Trustee Dave Butterfield acknowledged Diane Batson, whose research led to the landmarking of several New Lenox-area historical structures. Batson already had begun researching this Haven-Francis home before her death last month.

“She’s smiling down on us right now,” Butterfield said.



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