Chicago 7 Most Endangered Buildings - 2007
Pilgrim Baptist Church
Pilgrim Baptist, Photo Credit Art Institute of Chicago Ryerson & Burnham Archives
North Avenue Bridge
North Ave Bridge, Photo Credit by Preservation Chicago
Rosenwald Apartments, Photo Credit by Eric Allix Rogers
Historic Archer Avenue
Archer Avenue and Lock Street
Wicker Park Commercial District
Wicker Park, Photo Credit by Eric Allix Rogers
Julia C. Lathrop Homes
Lathrop Homes, Photo Credit by Ward Miller, Preservation Chicago
The Farwell Building
Tragedy occured on January 6, 2006, when fire gutted the 115-year-old Pilgrim Baptist Church located at the corner of 33rd and Indiana Avenue. The Adler and Sullivan church, built originally as a synagogue, had been a designated city landmark since 1981 and its history included being the place where Gospel music was born. However, the future of what is left of the church remains widely debated.
Many have weighed in on the Church’s destiny – Church officials, politicians, architects, preservationists. Some had thought it unsalvageable. But in February of 2006, a study by structural engineers of Wiss, Janney, Elstner Assoc., Inc. had shown that significant portions of Pilgrim Baptist’s exterior walls remained structurally sound, leading to much optimism that the Church could be restored.
Update:Since the fire, scaffolding has been in place to stabalize the three remaining walls of the church. Several well-attended stakeholder meetings, which included Preservation Chicago, were conducted to determined how to move forward with the rebuilding. What became of those meetings was a plan to rebuild Pilgrim anew. On Saturday April 3, 2011, the board of Pilgrim Baptist Church announced that the first phase of this 4-phased rebuilding effort would begin in the summer of 2011 and be completed in September of 2012. The Tribune reported that the initial phase will cost $3.5 million dollars.
The North Avenue Pedestrian Bridge was considered a triumph of engineering and design when first constructed in 1938. It possesses the unique characteristic of having a very long span with no central support, affording a minimum of visual obstruction to motorists on Lake Shore Drive. The stunning impression from a distance is that of a long, low, and graceful arch linked by an overhead grid of crossed steel beams. Suspended from many vertical cables is the pedestrian roadway. However, because this once-revolutionary bridge does not meet modern accessibility requirements, its future could be doomed.
In 2003, city officials and the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) determined that the North Avenue Pedestrian Bridge was non-compliant with federal accessibility standards and needed to be replaced. A 2005 design competition, won by PSA-Dewberry of Peoria, Illinois, calls for a sweeping curvilinear design. However, they did not recommend preservation of the historic bridge.
Update:Since the 2007 Chicago 7 listing, the North Avenue Pedestrian Bridge has been repaired and repainted and is still in use. Funds to replace the bridge are apparently no longer available. However, there has been no written commitment to preserve the bridge and it remains unlandmarked and thus unprotected from future demolition.
In 1929, the Michigan Boulevard Garden Apartments were constructed at the intersection of 47th Street and Michigan Avenue to provide working class African-Americans with quality affordable housing. For several decades, this complex was a desirable place to live and raise a family. It was well managed and profitable for the owners. However, after several ownership changes, occasions of mismanagement, and years of neglect, the complex currently lies vacant. No children play in its courtyard, no businesses occupy the busy 47th Street storefronts and the prospects for the building’s future look dim.
While developers had hoped to revitalize the building with financial assistance from the City of Chicago, plans to redevelop The Rosenwald are all stalled as the complex continues to decay. If maintenance and rehabilitation is not provided soon, the complex will be damaged beyond repair.
Update: In the spring of 2010, at the urging of 3rd Ward Alderman Pat Dowell, the Urban Land Institute released a feasibility study for the Rosenwald. The conclusion was that it would take upwards of $100 million to fully rehabilitate the complex.
In the spring of 2011, it was reported that a redevelopment team was seriously looking at the rehabilitation of the Rosenwald and was in high-level discussions with the city. However, no official announcement has been made. Preservation Chicago continues to monitor the situation.
Traveling down Archer Avenue is like taking a trip back to the golden age of an early Chicago commercial district. The oldest part of Bridgeport, is a neighborhood with its own distinct identity that hosts a mix of architectural styles. To this day, the architecture of the late 1800’s remains. Even though some of it is in disrepair, the composite of buildings tells an important story that should be preserved.
Since 2000, Bridgeport has become the focus of much new residential and commercial development. Demolitions, partial demolitions (“remodelings”), the destruction of historic façades and the construction of buildings incompatible with the historic streetscape are slowly, but methodically, ruining its character.
Once a diagonal Indian path and early toll road, this vibrant, multi-faceted stretch of Milwaukee Avenue is one of the precious few Chicago neighborhood commercial districts that remains largely intact. It encompasses 50 structures that have earned a CHRS (Chicago Historic Resources Survey) rating, including multiple Orange rated buildings.
With only its residential sections established as a Chicago Landmark District in 1991, the entire northeast edge of the Wicker Park Historic District runs parallel and adjacent to Milwaukee Avenue. Although part of the Milwaukee commercial strip was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, the rest remained unprotected and vulnerable to teardowns, which had already begun, when Preservation Chicago identified the strip as a Chicago 7 in 2007.
Update: The Wicker Park Commercial District (Milwaukee Avenue) became another Preservation Chicago success story when it was landmarked in April of 2009.
Julia Lathrop Homes is the best public housing development that Chicago has ever built, representing a racially mixed and remarkably stable community for generations of Chicagoans. Beautifully sited along the Chicago River with a magnificent and mature landscape, the buildings are low-rise and gently ornamented, creating an intimate, humane atmosphere. The development is small scale, low-density and well integrated with the surrounding neighborhood.
During the depths of the Great Depression, the Federal government was determined to create much-needed public housing, and, at the same time, provide jobs for unemployed architects and building trades workers. To find a solution to the perpetual problem of creating livable public housing, the government assembled a “Dream Team” of the best and brightest architects from Chicago.
However, in July of 2006, the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) announced its intention to demolish Lathrop Homes and replace it with an apartment-condominium-townhome development — this in a part of the city already grasping to maintain its visual, social and historical diversity under a wave of big-box and luxury condominium development.
In 2010, the CHA board approved an RFQ (Request for Qualifications) to redevelop Lathrop into a mixed-income community. The community residents and stakeholders continue to advocate for the complete physical and social preservation of their community. To date, no guarantee has been made that any of the historic buildings or landscapes will be preserved and residents continue to battle with the CHA leadership for the preservation of their community.
A disturbing trend called “Facadism” began to emerge in the mid-2000’s. Ostensibly marketed as “historic preservation” it was more closely resembled architectural taxidermy.
The issue came to a contentious head in late 2006 and early 2007 when the historic Farwell Building, located at 660 N. Michigan Avenue in the heart of the Magnificient Mile, when Prism Development Company announced plans to skin the building’s historic façade, demolish the entire building, and then reapply the skin to a hotel condominium and parking garage.
Update:Despite the best efforts of Preservation Chicago, Landmarks Illinois and other stakeholders to derail this misguided project, those efforts failed. The project moved forward, with only a few minor modifications, with full approval by the Landmarks Commission and will deliver its first units in 2012. Unfortunately, by allowing the Farwell project to proceed, the city has set an unfortunate precedent for all future facadectomies.