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Barat College land transfer planned Dec. 12 in Lake Forest

BarCollege Lake Forest. | Sun-Times Media

Barat College in Lake Forest. | Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 26, 2013 2:07AM

LAKE FOREST — Property that was once the campus of Barat College, a century-old liberal arts school, will formally become part of Woodlands Academy of the Sacred Heart next month.

The 23-acre, heavily wooded parcel, which sits immediately south of Woodlands between Western Avenue and Sheridan Road, was purchased through an anonymous gift under which the land is to be donated to Woodlands on the condition that Old Main, the circa 1904, five-story, red-brick, Barat campus centerpiece be demolished.

Woodlands, 760 E. Westleigh Road, is an all-girl Catholic preparatory boarding school for girls, a spinoff from Barat in 1961.

The donation will be celebrated with a prayer service at Woodlands on Dec. 12, the birthday of Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat, a French nun and foundress of the Society of the Sacred Heart, which founded both Barat and Woodlands and other schools like them throughout the U.S. and around the world.

The donation marks an end to uncertainty over the future of the property, which since its sale in 2005 by DePaul University, which purchased the college in 2001, has been the subject of a failed residential development, a foreclosure lawsuit and an unsuccessful battle by preservationists to save Sacred Heart Chapel inside Old Main.

The Lake Forest City Council gave its stamp of approval to the anonymous land donation in early 2012 when it voted to amend Woodlands’ special-use permit, allowing the sole educational utilization of its grounds to extend to the Barat property.

A multi-phase master plan designed by Chicago-based architectural firm Perkins & Will will guide the development of the expanded Woodlands campus and allow for the protection and preservation of the ravines and many old trees on the Barat parcel. Task forces at Woodlands are now deciding how to incorporate the one building of the former Barat campus that will be spared — the 30,000 square-foot Cooney Library, constructed in 1997.

In addition to the razing of Old Main, the land gift will also provide Woodlands with new roads and parking areas and landscaping for lawns and athletic fields. The historic cupola from the roof of Old Main will be preserved for display on a protected front lawn, entrance roads will be realigned, and walking paths will be constructed.

Woodlands Head of School Gerald Grossman hailed the “most generous gift” of the Barat property as “a profound affirmation” of Woodlands’ heritage and mission. He also pointed to a sort of spiritual good sense of enfolding the remnant of Barat into its offspring, Woodlands.

“The fact that the properties will be reunited for the purposes of a Sacred Heart education, we hope gives Barat alumnus some comfort,” he said. “We’re very, very blessed.”

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