Hott House was a Hot Mess!

In 1960, the Board of Trustees accepted a conditional and designated charitable gift that would adversely impact Allerton House for the next 15 years.

At the October 19, 1960 BOT meeting, the University accepted the gift of a private estate on Monticello’s State Street. Hott House as it would become known was designated to be used as an off-campus educational facility. The charitable gift, valued at $320,000 was to be made incrementally over a period of years. The UI Foundation (UIF) was designated to serve as Trustee for the property :

…have offered the University their residence property…for use as an off-campus facility….The gift will be made over a period of years, and the University of Illinois Foundation will serve as Trustee…

The gift is designated as the “Hott memorial Center for Continuing Education,” and the residence will be used for off-campus conferences, workshops, and other meetings, in the same way as Robert Allerton House.

The Foundation entered into a twenty year lease with the family for the balance of the ungifted portion of the estate. Hott Memorial Center for Continuing Education was assigned to the Division of University Extension. Allerton House was also assigned to the Division of University Extension.

In February, 1962, improvements were approved that required a loan to finance the $137,500 renovations to Hott House. 

Beginning in 1963, however, the budget of Hott House was assigned to Allerton House.

October 26, 1963 University of Illinois Foundation, Rental of Hott Memorial Center, Monticello, from July 1, 1963 to June 30, 1965, as an extension of Robert Allerton Park. Amount to be Paid to the University  24,000 (6,000 semiannually plus interest).

In January, 1965, the total gifted interest to the University of Hott House was 43/100th interest.  The December 15, 1965 BOT minutes list under Gifts for Educational and Research Buildings and for Other Facilities  a gift for Hott Memorial Center for $67,950.

Five years into the gifting process, the estate had been less than 50% gifted. Rent was still being paid to the family for the use of the ungifted portion of the estate. And since 1963, Allerton House budget had been responsible for rental of Hott House.

Memo from House manager to his University superior dated November 20, 1972:

Allerton House is presently in a very dangerous situation. The electrical system is antiquated and some of it is far below the standards set…. Complicating this dangerous situation is the fact that Allerton House has no sprinkler system…”

Reporting structure changed again in August, 1973. Allerton House and its programs began reporting to the Chancellor.

The Chancellor stressed a distinct separation between Allerton House and Allerton Park in his memo dated August 9, 1973:

…. campus administration is now responsible for Allerton House and its programs (not Allerton Park).

Campus director of Allerton House programs at the Chancellor’s office wrote in this October 17, 1973 memo:

The Hott Memorial Center was operated by the Division of University of Extension as a conference center from the mid-1950’s until July 1, 1972. It was closed at that time because of a general lack of use, high expenses to operate, need of major maintenance, and because few of the groups using Hott could easily be accommodated at Allerton House. Even though Hott House was closed more than one year ago, and has not generated any income since that time, certain expenditures have been required for minimum maintenance. These expenditures have been made on the Allerton House operations Account which supports the total operation of Allerton House and has had a continuing debit balance for many years…

The money currently being spent on Hott House is badly needed to maintain and improve Allerton House as an attractive and efficient conference center. Since Hott House has been closed for more than a year and has been listed for sale by the University for two years, it seems reasonable that we have met our obligation to maintain Hott and should be permitted to re-direct our limited funds to more fruitful pursuits.

Even though this stated gift value exceeded $400,000, and $137,000 in improvements had been made, Hott House finally sold for less than $100,000.

December 19, 1973, BOT minutes: Authorization to exchange and recommendation for the sale of properties. …the exchange of the Hott Memorial Center property in Monticello for the property at 905 West Green Street… As part of the transaction, the University will assign to the Foundation an offer from Mr. Clinton C. Atkins to purchase the Hott Memorial Center property as at price of $95,500.

Because of the debt incurred with Hott House, Allerton House suffered. Rewiring of the House and other life safety items required by public houses were postponed or declined. The House did not generate enough income and there was no room in the budget to repair Allerton House. The plea for House maintenance funding began in the mid-1960’s and continued until the sale of Hott House. The value for the 1973 property exchange resulted in a Contract for Deed for the sale of Hott House but ultimately resulted in no net dollars coming to Allerton House. The expenses of Hott House devoured any hope for Allerton House recouping any of the dollars that had been diverted to this Hott mess and continued past its sale. From 1960 until 1975, Hott House drained Allerton House of income as the two vied for the same hospitality market and competed for funding from the same budget. Not only did Allerton House compete against Hott House, but Allerton House funded Hott House in its own competition.

How could our University have ignored this for 13 years?

Who benefitted from Hott House?

Certainly not Allerton House.

Which decision makers at the Foundation and University levels thought this financial arrangement for Hott House was a good idea? Research is not providing this answer.

(For the purpose of a smoother reading dialogue, the reader is advised that all referenced communications (letter, memo, in-house communication) were pulled from the University of Illinois Library Archives at the University of Illinois. These communications will generally reference authors by title. The date of authorship follows each citation within the body of the post. All of these communications were copied to many and therefore appear in numerous boxed sets within the archives.)

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