Caledonia Senior Living and Memory Care, 2800 Desplaines Ave. in North Riverside, is planning a multi-million dollar project to improve the oldest part of its campus later this year courtesy of the largest grant the organization has ever received.

In December, Gus Noble, president of Chicago Scots, which operates Caledonia Senior Living, announced that the Negaunee Foundation had gifted the organization $2 million to renovate the Scottish Home, which was built in 1917 and was last updated about 30 years ago.

“We really believe in this physical building and what it represents as far as our care,” Noble said. “The building has cared for hundreds of thousands of people, if you extend the care we provide out into the community and families. And now is the time for us to take care of the building.” 

The Negaunee Foundation, which ordinarily supports the arts and sciences, will give Caledonia Senior Living $1 million in both 2020 and 2021. In addition, the foundation has promised to match up to $1 million in additional donations raised by Chicago Scots during the next two years.

“The people who run [the Negaunee Foundation] have become very good friends of ours, both personally and professionally,” said Noble, who has led Chicago Scots and Caledonia Senior Living since 2004. “They normally support the arts and sciences, but they recognized something in us at this particular moment that I think really hit home with them. They said, ‘We believe in doing the right thing.'”

In addition to the Negaunee Foundation, said Noble, Caledonia Senior Living has also received gifts from Peter Georgeson, who has a wing already named after him at the nursing home, and an anonymous donor. Chicago Scots raised another $150,000 at their Feast of the Haggis event last month.

“It’s set us on a path towards reimagining the tradition of the Scottish Home,” Noble said.

Noble announced the grant at Chicago Scots’ annual gala. The improvement of the oldest wing of Caledonia Senior Living will coincide with the charity’s 175th birthday in 2020. The Chicago Scots, formerly known as the Illinois St. Andrew Society, was formed in 1845 and is believed to be the oldest nonprofit organization in the state.

Initial plans have been drawn up for the improvement project, said Noble, but work remains on final drawings. The organization is working with architect Heidi Wang of Worn Jerabek Wiltse and interior designer Martha Strong as well as the construction firm of Bulley and Andrews.

The 1917 Scottish Home wing of Caledonia Senior Living houses the 49 rooms making up the “sheltered care” unit, an assisted-living wing where a nurse is on duty 24 hours a day.

“It allows us to do more for people who need nursing care,” Noble said.

Caledonia Senior Living also includes 14 intermediate care rooms in the MacMillan Wing, built in the 1960s and 22 skilled nursing rooms in the Georgeson Wing, built in the 1990s.

The campus also is home to the McLean House, opened in 2016 and designed and built specifically to provide care to those living with Alzheimer’s, dementia and other forms of memory loss.

The improvements to the Scottish Home wing of the campus will include revealing some long covered-over aspects of the original design by architect William Bryce Mundie – himself a life member of the Illinois St. Andrew Society — whose career started as a draftsman in the office of William LeBaron Jenney and would become Jenney’s partner in 1891.

That design included such features as skylights and terrazzo floors, which will be brought back in the remodel, said Noble.

“We want to help reinforce the Scottish identity of the building, but presented in a way that feels compelling to the generation of residents of today and tomorrow,” Noble said.

Work will address hallways, provide new lighting, new wallcoverings, new flooring, new ceilings and a new security system. It will also include upgrades to resident bedrooms, bathrooms and the construction of two spas.

The Scottish Home’s public rooms will also be renovated, according to Noble, and an effort will be made to better connect the main living room and dining room with the outdoor courtyard. Programming changes will also be part of the reimagined Scottish Home wing, to make better use of the upstairs Great Room.

Noble said that he expects work to begin in the second half of 2020 

“We’re all chomping at the bit, ready to go,” Noble said. “I want this to coincide with the 175th anniversary of the society. It’s an important opportunity for us to reimagine tradition of the past into the future. There’s no better time to put that mark in the ground.”