Chicago 7 Most Endangered Buildings - 2009
Overview and Map - 2009 Chicago 7
Chicago Motor Club
Chicago Motor Club, Photo Credit by Preservation Chicago
Meigs Field Terminal - 2009 Chicago 7
Meigs Field, Photo Credit by Eric Allix Rogers
Old Fashioned Wood Windows
Michael Reese Modern
Michael Reese, Photo Credit by Preservation Chicago
Harper Theater, Photo Credit by Preservation Chicago
St Boniface Church
Photo Credit by Ward Miller, Preservation Chicago
Richard Nickel House
Richard Nickel House, Photo Credit by Preservation Chicago
The Chicago Motor Club is an elegant example of Holabird and Roche’s Art Deco skyscraper artistry, although it rises only 16 stories. Located at 68 E. Wacker Dr., it boasts a streamlined façade with decorative metal spandrels and medallions evocative of the period. Equally important, this gem from 1928 includes an intact two-story lobby that celebrates the early days of the country’s burgeoning automobile culture. Built as the new headquarters for the Chicago Motor Club, its lobby includes a mural by noted Chicago artist John W. Norton that maps out 19 major auto routes across the country.
Preservation Chicago became concerned in 2009 that the stymied plans to repurpose the building as a boutique hotel had left it vacant for too long, leaving it at risk for deterioration and potential demolition.
Update:On May 5, 2011 the Commission on Chicago Landmarks voted to Preliminary Landmark the Chicago Motor Club building. This could not have happened but for the leadership of Brendan Reilly, Alderman of the 42nd Ward.
The action was prompted when, in the fall of 2010, it was announced that the building was in foreclosure and that the owner had declared bankruptcy. On March 25 of 2011, Crain’s Chicago Business reported that, after a failed attempt by Virgin Atlantic to convert the building into a boutique hotel, a bankruptcy judge approved a public auction for the building.
The auction occurred on June 23, 2011 and the winning bidder was Aries Capital, a mortgage bank based in Chicago which had held the former developer’s mortgage. In early 2012, Aries consented to the Landmark designation as a means to facilitate a future Class L property tax incentive, possibly for a boutique hotel.
The 1961 Terminal on Northerly Island is one of two reminders of the Merrill C. Meigs Field Airport that was abruptly closed in 2003. The delightfully modern airport terminal was completed in 1961 by Consoer & Morgan. The two-story glass, steel and precast masonry building featured a taller three-story central structure with an atrium that offered spectacular lake vistas for waiting passengers. In 2008, with the frezy surrounding the efforts to win the 2016 Olympics, it looked as though the terminal’s days were numbered.
Update: Although the city lost the bid to host the 2016 Olympics in October of 2009, the threat to the future of the Meigs Field terminal building is very much alive. At a November 2, 2010 public presentation, the Park District displayed concepts for a Northerly Island park that called for the terminal to be stripped of all of its exterior walls and turned into an open air pavilion. This would not only destroy any connection that the park once had to its early origins as an airport, but would also remove a perfectly adaptable interior space that could be used for future park functions.
Everybody wants to save money on their heating bills, and we’ve all been told that replacing those old wood windows is the best way to do that. But the fact is, traditional wood double-hung windows are more cost and energy efficient, more durable, easier to maintain and simply more attractive than most any replacement window on the market. In 2009, Preservation Chicago took notice of the disturbing trend of replacing otherwise solidly built and repairable wood windows, and committed to trying to reverse it.
Although the multi-million dollar replacement window lobby has convinced the general public that it is in their interest to pay more for an inferior version of something they already own, Preservation Chicago belives that, through education and outreach, this trend can be reversed.
The Michael Reese Hospital and Medical Center campus located along King Drive between 29th and 31st Street on the Near South Side offered a compelling vision of post-World War II optimism in the power of rational design. In 2008, it was announced that the medical center’s 130-year history would come to an end. In anticipation of the 2016 Olympic bid, the city purchased the entire Michael Reese campus as the site of the Olympic Village and slated the entire 37 acres for demolition. After an uproar by preservationists, the city promised to preserve only the orange-rated 1905 main building. However, after Preservation Chicago had already identified the modern buildings worthy of preservation in January of 2009, research by Grahm Balkany revealed that Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus, had designed or co-designed 8 additional buildings on the campus.
Update: In the fall of 2009, after a year-long battled that played out at scores of public meetings and was splashed across the editorial pages, the city began to demolished all but two of the historic buildings on the campus. In the fall of 2010, after claiming that they could no longer “police” the old main building, the city approved a demolition contract for that building also. To date, only the 1948 Singer Pavilion designed by Walter Gropius remains standing.
The Harper Theater Buildings in Hyde Park are an important example of Chicago’s traditional mixed-use commercial buildings. The complex is also one of three historic corner buildings still standing at Hyde Park’s important commercial intersection of 53rd Street and Harper Avenue. This intersection is one of the last scraps of the neighborhood’s once extensive commercial district that survive. Many of Hyde Park’s historic commercial buildings were demolished as part of Hyde Park’s infamous Urban Renewal project of the 1950’s. The University of Chicago now owns the Harper Theater Buildings. A redevelopment plan was rejected by the university in 2008 and, currently, the buildings stand empty and unprotected.
Update: On January 10, 2011 The University Of Chicago announced an adaptive reuse and redevelopment plan for the entire complex. The shops on 53rd Street will be renovated for a new retail tenant that has yet to be announced. The former movie theater will once again house a multi-screen movie theater, a much-welcome addition to the 53rd Street retail corridior. The theater, to be called the New 400, is slated to open in the fall of 2012.
Closed by the Archdiocese of Chicago in 1990, the historic St. Boniface church, located at the corner of Noble and Chestnut, had sat vacant and deteriorating for two decades. Plans by the archdiocese to demolish the structure were quashed in 1999 by community activists, who proposed using the church as a branch library. Although numerous proposals had been put forth since that time, the most interest had come from a group of Egyptian Coptic Christians, who had been trying to acquire the property directly from the archdiocese for almost three years.
Preservation Chicago recommended in the Chicago 7 nomination that the City of Chicago landmark the church, which would have kept it standing until a viable preservation solution could be negotiated.
Update: In 2010, preservation success was finally achieved when a complex land swap was arranged between the Archdiocese of Chicago, the Chicago Board of Education and International Project Management, a real estate development company. IPM will adaptively reuse historic elements of the church and rectory and convert the property into a retirement community. However, as of the spring of 2012, financing for the redevelopment deal still had not been secured.
This elegant Bucktown storefront building, located at 1810 W. Cortland, was owned by Richard Nickel, legendary architectural photographer and Chicago preservation pioneer. Until his death in 1972, it served as Nickel’s base for photography and salvage operations. There he documented the work of the pioneering architecture firm of Adler & Sullivan, whose legacy was rapidly being lost to demolition due to urban renewal. Ironically, his home, a building that played such an important role in Nickel’s efforts to raise public awareness of Adler & Sullivan’s work, itself became threatened with demolition in 2008.
Update: Due to Preservation Chicago’s action and 32nd Ward Alderman Scott Waguespack’s unwavering support, the Richard Nickel House became another Success story when it was landmarked in 2009.