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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Adlai E. Stevenson II

Lake County resident, Adlai E. Stevenson II (1900-1965) was one of the most important statesmen of the 20th century.

Stevenson was a popular and effective governor of Illinois from 1948 to 1952, before running twice unsuccessfully for president against Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952 and 1956. He was appointed as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations from 1960 to 1965.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1961, Stevenson famously confronted Soviet Ambassador Valerian Zorin in an emergency meeting of the Security Council. He provoked Zorin to admit that offensive weapons had been placed in Cuba and declared that he would wait "until Hell freezes over" for Zorin's response.

Presidential campaign button for Stevenson and Sparkman, 1952. Senator John Sparkman was a conservative Democrat from Alabama. (LCDM 2009.5)

In 1937, Stevenson purchased property in Libertyville Township along today's St. Mary's Road south of Route 60. For this reason, he was known as "the man from Libertyville." Since 1960 the property has been part of the Village of Mettawa.

Stevenson loved this property and called it "the farm." He hired Frank Holland to be the farm manager and caretaker. Holland worked for the Stevensons from 1937 to 1963 and again from 1965 to 1970. Guests to "the farm" included Eleanor Roosevelt, a close friend of Stevenson's, and John F. Kennedy.

Adlai Stevenson with his farm manager, Frank Holland, on "the farm," 1948. Stevenson would share in the sheep shearing and other farm tasks. Photo courtesy of Jim Holland.

Stevenson had a remarkable political pedigree. His grandfather, Adlai E. Stevenson I, was Vice President under U.S. President Grover Cleveland from 1893-1897. His maternal great-grandfather, Jesse W. Fell, was a close friend and campaign manager for Abraham Lincoln.

There was a great sense of loss when Stevenson died suddenly of a heart attack in London, England in 1965. He was an eloquent speaker and was enormously informed in national and world affairs, working tirelessly to raise the level of the public's awareness about the world and America's place in it.

Cover of Life Magazine from 1965 in memory of Stevenson, showing him at home at "the farm." Copyright Getty Images.

In 1969, most of the property was sold to Edison Dick, a longtime friend of Stevenson. In 1974 the Dick family donated the estate to the Lake County Forest Preserves. The property has since been designated an Illinois Historic Site and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Through a generous grant from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, the Stevenson Historic Home has been restored, and is open for tours. The 40-acre site is open daily for self-guided tours of the grounds. Tours of the home and exhibit gallery are by appointment and can be arranged through the Lake County Discovery Museum at 847-968-3381.

Presidential campaign slogan for Stevenson.(right)

The Stevenson Historic Home is also the site of the Stevenson Center on Democracy. The Center is a newly organized non-profit corporation which seeks to enhance the global understanding and practice of democracy, and continue Adlai E. Stevenson II's legacy. Learn more about upcoming events sponsored by the Center at the Stevenson Historic Home:

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