Chicago 7 Most Endangered Buildings - 2005
Sheffield Historic District
Armitage & Sheffield, Photo Credit by Eric Allix Rogers
Chicago Factories & Warehouses
Central Manufacturing District, Photo Credit by Adam Natenshon, Preservation Chicago
The Goodman Theatre & Columbus Drive Plaza
Hotel Dana, Photo Credit by Preservation Chicago
Jacob Riis Public School - 2005 Chicago 7
Jacob Riis School, Photo Credit by Preservation Chicago
444 North LaSalle Building
444 N. LaSalle, Photo Credit by Preservation Chicago
Charitable Eye & Ear Infirmary
Eye and Ear Infirmary Building, Photo Credit by Preservation Chicago
A civil war broke out in Lincoln Park in the spring of 2004 over the preservation of the neighborhood’s historic architecture. At that time, a group of concerned DePaul University area residents, alarmed by over-development and the loss of historic buildings, partnered with Preservation Chicago in order to initiate the discussion of creating a city landmark district to slow this development trend. However, because of that action, the debate became anything but civil.
As more and more charming and irreplaceable Victorian homes fell to the wrecker ball that summer, neighbors pitted themselves against neighbors in a fight over the soul of the neighborhood. This architecturally and the historically important area had already received federal recognition in the 1980’s and was officially known as the Sheffield National Register Historic District. But that designation alone did not protect it against the demolition of historic buildings.
Town hall meetings disintegrated into shouting matches and some pro-development advocates, who wished to block any restrictions on their ability to undertake teardowns, had even resorted to disseminating misinformation, further fanning neighborhood confusion and fear. As a result, some residents who had once supported a landmark district adopted an anti-landmarking stance.
Update:Ultimately, only one single block of the entire Sheffield National Register Historic District ever achieved city Landmark status. The 2100 block of N. Bissell Street consisted of a series of attached rowhouses, and because of that, it was also the least likely to suffer from teardowns. However, when the block finally received landmark protection on September 5, 2007, preservationists gave a sigh of relief. Since the 2005 nomination, teardowns have continued almost unabated in the area, hardly even slowed by the worst economy since the Great Depression.
Many Chicagoans are well aware of the rich past of the Chicago School of architecture, especially our glorious early skyscrapers, but far fewer are familiar with the history or importance of the skyscraper’s industrial cousins. Although largely unheralded, the Chicago School’s reach did not stop with downtown high-rises: Throughout the city, the same revolutionary principles of design can be found in our Great Factories and Warehouses.
While these massive industrial buildings may lack the awe-inspiring heights of downtown towers, they are no less important to our city’s history, to the fabric of our neighborhoods, or to Chicago’s visual richness. As the industrial powerhouse of the nation, Chicago companies demanded newer, state-of-the-art buildings that would eventually lead to a new architectural archetype that is indigenous and largely unique to Chicago.
Unfortunately, however, these iconic buildings still remain greatly at risk.
Update:Numerous factories and warehouses that were identified as threatened back in 2005 have since been demolished. Both of the former Washburne Trade School buildings, the former Brach’s Candy Company Building, and the Bunte Brothers Candy Factory, more commonly known as the former Westinghouse High School are all rubble. The Central Manufacturing District buildings remain largely vacant and deteriorating. However, the former Florsheim Shoe Company building has been rehabbed into loft condominiums.
The Art Institute of Chicago planned to demolish the former Goodman Theatre on its downtown campus in preparation for construction of the new Modern wing. Citing problems including lack of space and out-of-date heating and cooling systems, the Goodman Theatre built a new theater in the downtown Theatre District, which opened in October of 2000 and the old Goodman remained vacant since that time.
Since the old Goodman Theatre existed primarily underground, Preservation Chicago recommended that an addition be made that preserved the theater, with additional space built above. Furthermore, due to the presence of the Illinois Central tracks running through the site below grade, a large amount of air-rights space was available to the immediate west of the theater. This space could have been leveraged to create new buildable “ground,” with the added benefit of obscuring the unsightly tracks, much as had been done with Millennium Park to the north.
Update:The excitement over the construction of the new Modern Wing by famed architect Renzo Piano eclipsed any sentiment for preserving the old theater. Furthermore, Preservation Chicago was never able to organize any relevant constituency to oppose its demolition. The Modern Wing opened in May of 2009 to rave reviews.
Not only was it the city’s oldest continually-operating hotel building, Hotel Dana, 666 N. State, was also one of the oldest hotel structures still standing in Chicago. Built in 1891 as the Erie Hotel, the Queen Anne-style flat building remained remarkably intact, the only one of Chicago’s early hotel buildings not to have undergone significant alteration. Furthermore, the five-and-one-half-story Hotel Dana was one of the few grandly-scaled Queen Anne structures left in Chicago, where once there were many.
With redevelopment on all sides, the Hotel Dana occupied a prime River North location. A surface parking lot occupied the site to the north, while a small Victorian house sat to the south. That combination put incredible pressure on the Hotel Dana as a potential candidate for demolition.
Update:Preservation Chicago had advocated for the preservation of the Dana Hotel since 2001. However, despite its Orange rating, city officials expressed absolutely no opposition to the building being demolished. Today, a sleekly modern glass and concrete hotel sits on the site. Its name…The Hotel Dana.
The stately Jacob Riis Public School, 1111 S. Throop, survived years of declining attendance and neighborhood change, culminating with its closure by the school board in 2002. The building survived when much of its surroundings were demolished to make way for the Jane Addams public housing in the late 1930s, and it even survived as those buildings in turn succumbed to the wrecking ball in 2004.
Update:However, after so many chapters in its rich history, and in spite of the structure’s remarkably solid state, LR Development demolishing the school to make way for the massive Roosevelt Square development, which is replacing the Jane Addams Homes that once surrounded the school.
One of the most exuberant and well-crafted Art Deco buildings in the central city, 444 N. LaSalle sat directly in the line of fire of Chicago’s ever-expanding high-rise development. A new 45-story apartment building arose one block to the south one year earlier when 444 N. LaSalle was listed as endangered.
Update:The landmarking of 444 N. LaSalle was an early Preservation Chicago triumph. The complete story of its preservation can be viewed in Success Stories.
The Near West Side needed a new park, and had been promised one by then 2nd Ward Alderman Madeline Haithcock. The residents were eager for it, and understandably so. However, Preservation Chicago strongly objected to what park planners had decided to sacrifice in order to create this new park: A unique building that was both architecturally and historically significant. The building was located at the Northeast corner of Sangamon and Adams, and was the Orange-rated Illinois Charitable Eye and Ear Infirmary.
At that time, Preservation Chicago recommended that the building be restored to its original dignified presence as a field house for the new park.
Update:Facing insurmountable resistance from community leaders against the proposal to preserve any portion of the former building as a field house for the new park, the building was completely demolished. The new park opened in the summer of 2010 and, if you look closely, you will be able to observe brick and terra cotta details embedded into the concrete retaining walls that were salvaged from the demolished building.