Chicago 7 Most Endangered Buildings - 2008
Photo Credit by Preservation Chicago
Daily News Building
Daily News Building, Photo Credit by Chuckman Postcard Collection
Norwood Park, Photo Credit by Preservation Chicago
Overview and Map - 2008 Chicago 7
Chicago Landmarks Ordinance
Ashland 63rd State Bank, Photo Credit by Eric Allix Rogers
American Book Company
American Book Company, Photo Credit by Eric Allix Rogers
Devon Avenue District
Devon Avenue, Photo Credit by Eric Allix Rogers
Grant Park looking south, Photo Credit by Eric Allix Rogers
The Booker Building, 4700 S. Cottage Grove Ave., is part of a vanishing breed—the vintage urban commercial corner. These corner buildings were the pillars supporting Chicago’s neighborhood commercial life marking the intersections of bustling shopping streets. Because of their prominent position, developers often blessed them with their finest architectural efforts. They offered retail on their first floors with office or residential above, the very formula now being rediscovered as “mixed use.” At the moment when these buildings could contribute most to the commercial revitalization of Chicago’s neighborhoods they are being demolished at an alarming rate. Preservation Chicago identified the Booker Building as threatened in 2008 when it was announced that, ironically, a “mixed use” development would replace the entire corner site.
Update:The Booker Building was demolished in late 2011 and the historic corner will be replaced by Aldi as its anchor tenant. When the original redevelopment agreement that would have replaced the Booker Building fell apart, the city stepped in with $1.7 million in public TIF funding to revive the project. Thus public funds have been used to facilitate the demolition of an historic building.
The former home of the Chicago Daily News at 2 N. Riverside Plaza is an architectural gem that features an elegant art deco design. The site also includes an impressive pedestrian plaza that allows downtown workers to enjoy the riverfront against the backdrop of the historic Lyric Opera building. Preservationist became alarmed in the year 2000 by a development proposal that would have built a new skyscraper on the site of the plaza. Althought that much-discussed plan never came to fruition, without any local protection, the historic structure remains vulnerable to alterations that could deface its elegance, destroy its human-scale, and erode the quality of life for downtown workers and visitors.
Update:In 2010, the owners of the building embarked on a multi-million dollar renovation of the building.
Old Norwood Park, located on Chicago’s far Northwest Side, was designed to be a park-like residential neighborhood with large lots, wide streets and elegant single-family homes. Its curvilinear street pattern, unusual for Chicago, surrounds several large parks. The early Victorian homes were joined over time by Tudor, American four square, bungalow and ranch-style homes, many designed by noted architects such as Frost & Granger, George C. Nimmons, William C. Jones, George F. Lovdall, William Presto, Dewey & Pavlovich, Gustav Pearson, Benedict J. Bruns, Lyman J. Allison, Axel Teisen, Theis J. Reynertson and Olsen & Urbain. A long-time cornerstone of the community is the threatened Norwegian Old Peoples Home designed by Giaver & Dinkelberg. The Chicago Historic Resources Survey lists 271 Norwood Park buildings as significant with 81 of them rated orange. During the building boom of the mid-2000’s, Norwood Park’s large lots and older housing stock provided a perfect recipe for tear-downs and new construction.
Update:Although demolitions have abated somewhat due to the recession, the area remians unprotected. A decades-long effort by the community to create an historic landmark district has never come to fruition.
It was the destruction of Louis Sullivan’s Garrick Theater in 1961, an act of civic vandalism, that gave rise to Chicago’s historic preservation movement and, ultimately, led to the passage of the Chicago Landmark Ordinance in 1968. Since that time the city has landmarked almost 300 individual buildings and created over 50 historic landmark districts. Despite this progress, several recent redevelopment projects endorsed by the city’s planning department and approved by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks call into question whether the integrity of the ordinance itself is in danger.
The issue that prompted the Chicago 7 nomination was an inappropriate 2007 redevelopment
proposal for the former Chicago Athletic Association building, located at 12 S. Michigan Avenue. The building, built in 1893, was designed by architect Henry Ives Cobb, designer of the University of Chicago. Additions located at 71-79 E. Madison Street were added to the structure in 1906 and 1926 respectively by architects Schmidt, Garden, and Martin. The Venetian Gothic style is rare in Chicago, and the Chicago Athletic Association exemplifies it to the fullest in its use of patterned brick and intricately carved limestone.
At that time, Preservation Chicago believed that an overly-liberal interpretation of the Landmarks Ordinance in order to facilitate a spate of boom-era over-development would have long-lasting negative consequences for the landmarking process.
The stately brick and stone American Book Company building is an integral component in the trio of historic warehouse buildings located at the intersection of Cermak Road and Calumet Avenue. Before the real estate bust, the area had been ripe for additional hotel space to compliment the expanding McCormick Place convention center. But without any legal protection against demolition, a 2008 hotel redevelopment project threatened to destroy this unique slice of Chicago’s history.
Update:Preservation Chicago’s efforts to preserve this building ended in success when the building was landmarked in 2009. However, although it remains vacant and deteriorating, the future need for new mixed-use development in and around McCormick Place bodes well for the future of this building.
Devon Avenue on Chicago’s far north side is known throughout the Midwest and even internationally as a destination for a wide variety of Indian, Pakistani and other South Asian restaurants and shops. This international marketplace highlights the great diversity of Chicago and attracts thousands of visitors to Chicago. First developed in the years following World War I, Devon Avenue exhibits a fine collection of modest early-1920s brick buildings, elaborate late-20s era terra cotta commercial flats, and art deco-influenced structures from the early-1930s. While the vibrant cultural melting pot of Devon Avenue flourishes, its architectural heritage is threatened by neglect, indifference and the city’s lack of enforcement of zoning and building codes. Several redevelopment plans proposed in the recent past could irreparably harm the character and quality of this important street and its surrounding neighborhood if they were to come to fruition.
Update: Recent community efforts to both raise awareness about the importance of the architecture and to reward responsible stewardship by local building owners has met with some success. As of May of 2011, the 50th Ward has a new alderman, Debra Silverstein. Although the area still remains unprotected from wholesale demolition because it lacks official Landmark protection, it is hoped that the new administration will look more kindly on historic preservation than did the previous administration.
Leon Despres, legendary former alderman of the 5th Ward and an original sponsor of the Chicago Landmarks Ordinance, observed shortly before his death that developing city-owned park land was always a temptation because it was free. Unfortunately, in 2008, Grant Park tempted the city as the favored site for the new location of The Chicago Children’s Museum, even though 4 Illinois Supreme Court rulings declared that any encroachment upon what was intended to be “public land, forever open, clear and free” of any buildings, was illegal.
Update:Since the battle for Grant Park erupted in the spring and summer of 2008, the Chicago Children’s Museum has failed to raise the necessary funds to build their proposed museum in the park. They remain on Navy Pier and are in discussions with Pier officials to sign a new multi-year lease extension which would include an expansion and renovation of their current facilities.
In 2012, the Chicago Children’s Museum finally gave up on the idea of building in Grant Park.