Chicago 7 Most Endangered Buildings - 2006
Interior Furniture Building
Interior Furniture Building, Photo Credit by Preservation Chicago
C.S.A.S. building on 18th Street in Pilsen, built 1893, Photo Credit Eric Allix Rogers
Intersection of 59th and Halsted
Two Demolished, One Threatened
Intersections, Halsted and 59th Street, Photo Credit by Preservation Chicago
Promontory Point, Photo Credit by Eric Allix Rogers
Ward Miller, Preservation Chicago
New York Life Building
New York Life, Photo Credit by Library of Congress
Hayes Healy Chapel, Photo Credit by Preservation Chicago
In October, 2005, all domestic violence cases that were heard in the Domestic Violence Courthouse at 1340 S. Michigan Avenue were moved to a new Domestic Violence Courthouse in the West Loop. As a result, the building, originally built as the Interior Furniture Company Building, has been left vacant. At the time of its listing to the Chicago 7, the area around the building had been undergoing rapid conversion to a high density high-rise neighborhood. This placed the old building at great risk for demolition and redevelopment. However, instead, a plan was announced that was to convert the former courthouse to residential condominiums.
Update:Becasue of the downturn in the real estate market, the announced plan to adaptively reuse the building has been put on hold and the building remains vacant.
Taking a stroll down any street attests to the viability of a neighborhood that must be preserved, in its entirety, at all costs. The simple act of turning a corner can reveal a mural exploding from the side of a building. A garage door becomes an artist’s canvas, telling the story of a community and its people to anyone who passes by. In a neighborhood starved for green space, the street becomes a ball field and chairs hastily borrowed from the kitchen table instantly transform the sidewalk into a welcoming front porch. The instinct to place flowerpots on a windowsill, on the front steps, or on any other horizontal surface seldom goes unfulfilled. Fences are not fences, but art galleries and, what would be an ordinary sidewalk sale in any other Chicago neighborhood, in Pilsen becomes an outdoor Bazaar. Pushcarts selling ices and other delectable Mexican treats ply the streets or are found strategically parked on busy corners, and a constant chorus of children’s voices underscores it all. Even the faded and peeling paint lends an aura of charming realness in a city whose current administration favors newness and suburban sterility.
To get an idea of what Pilsen may look like in five years, a short drive north may provide some answers. The East Village neighborhood began an intense debate over its future about 10 years ago when rampant speculative redevelopment began to transform its historic but run-down streets. Today, on some blocks, almost every building has been demolished and replaced with luxury housing.
In June, 2005, a Planned Development was approved by the Chicago Plan Commission that would demolish and redevelop the stretch of commercial buildings on both sides of Halsted Street from 59th Street to 61st Street. The plan was created by the Englewood Commercial Development Corporation or ECDC, an entity of area merchants and landowners. Of the buildings listed above, the southeast corner building and the southwest corner building were to be demolished as part of the plan. The northeast corner building would remain but would be placed at great risk for eventual demolition as well.
Through a campaign called “The Vanishing Urban Corner,” begun in 2001, Preservation Chicago has opposed the demolition of vintage Chicago corner buildings. In 2002, the Recommendations for the New Zoning Ordinance of the City of Chicago, published by the City of Chicago, stressed the importance of the preservation of vintage corner buildings that anchor Chicago’s neighborhood commercial districts. This philosophy was ignored by City of Chicago in the plan for 59th and Halsted Streets.
Update: In the spring of 2010, both the southeast and southwest corners of the intersection of 59th and Halsted Streets were demolished. They both remain vacant lots.
Promontory Point, near 55th and Lake Shore Drive, was conceived as part of Daniel Burnham’s Plan of Chicago and featured a limestone stepstone block revetment. This particular revetment design is unique to Lake Michigan and once was the shoreline treatment for most of Chicago’s lakefront –until the Chicago Park District’s demolition and replacement project. In 1937 Alfred Caldwell, who had worked under Jens Jensen, designed Promontory Point.
In the 1980’s Chicago’s shoreline was threatened by high Lake Michigan water levels. The Chicago Park District, the Army Corps of Engineers and the City of Chicago developed a plan to rebuild the limestone step revetment along the lakefront. They signed a Memorandum of Agreement in accordance with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards to ensure that the project would protect the historic value of the structure. However, when construction actually began in the 1990’s the public was appalled — long unrelieved stretches of steel and concrete where the historic limestone had been. After all but two sections of the lakefront had been ruined — Promontory Point and Diversey-Wellington — the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency halted the project. But in July of 2006 the IHPA, under by a riptide of political pressure, endorsed the concrete and steel reconstruction.
Update:Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr, has carried through the House an amendment that would restrict federal funding to the preservation of Promontory Point. The amendment awaits action in the Senate.
When Preservation Chicago listed the Wrigley Rooftops as a Chicago 7, the over-commercialization of Wrigleyville immediately surrounding the ballpark on Waveland and Sheffield Avenues had already begun. Rooftop clubs overlooking Wrigley Field soon after received approval to build higher—to a new height of 65 feet—to preserve their bird’s-eye view of the ballpark. These additions were granted, in part, because of a partial loss of the view of the park’s interior that resulted from the 1,790-seat expansion of the Wrigley Field bleachers.
The concern that Preservation Chicago had at the time was that The City of Chicago did not have sufficient design control over new buildings and additions. The loss of that oversight risked creating visual clutter where there was once a classic Chicago-style brick and stone streetscape.
Update:Since the 2006 Chicago 7 listing, the over-commercialization of Waveland and Sheffield Avenues is almost complete. Unrelenting rows of steel bleachers now dominate the once-intimate and pedestrian-scaled streetscape. Gigantic new buildings have replaced many of the former residences and, although some of the original buildings have been retained, many have been “facadomized” whereby only their front facade has been retained and pasted to a much larger rear addition.
The New York Life Building was no stranger to Preservation Chicago’s 7 Most Endangered list. It was first listed in the fall of 2002 after several large redevelopment proposals had been discussed for the site. Fearing that the building would be completely demolished, Preservation Chicago’s advocacy helped convince the city to declare the building a Landmark at the end of 2002. However, that landmarking did not prevent the approval of a plan that could only be described as an architectural mutation and evisceration of one of the most important buildings in downtown Chicago.
The plan called for a new steel and glass skyscraper to be built on top of, and encroaching into, the pioneering steel frame of the building. Preservationist’s cries of bloody murder were to no avail. The plan was approved by the Landmarks Commission anyway.
Update:The plan to redevelop the New York Life Building has been on hold due to the downturn in the economy. Unfortunately, the approved plan remains in place and the precedent to allow new buildings to be built on top of historic old buildings has now been set.
The multi – million dollar reconstruction of the CTA’s Brown Line required a platform extension at the Fullerton El Station which was to extend partially onto what was the footprint of the Hayes-Healy Center, located on DePaul’s Lincoln Park campus. For over four years before the Chicago 7 listing, Preservation Chicago had worked to modify the plans by the CTA and by DePaul University to demolish the building.
In 2006, The Hayes-Healy Center was demolished. The Brown Line reconstruction project is now complete.