Chicago 7 Most Endangered Buildings - 2003
St. Boniface Church
Photo Credit by Ward Miller, Preservation Chicago
Lower River North Historic District
Lower River North District
Cook County Hospital - 2003 Chicago 7
Photo Credit by Chuckman's Chicago Postcard Collection
Chicago Mercantile Exchange
Metropolitan Community Church
Metropolitan Apostolistic Community Church, Photo Credit by Preservation Chicago
New York Life Building - 2003 Chicago 7
New York Life, Photo Credit Ward Miller, Preservation Chicago
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.
Literally surrounded by high-rise development on all sides, the fate of one of Chicago’s most compelling commercial districts is presently undecided. The River North area encompasses some of Chicago’s oldest commercial buildings designed by many noteworthy architects. The narrow,
Victorian buildings that define many of the area’s streetscapes give the area its unique character, but they also make it particularly vulnerable to various forms of decay. Several of these smaller buildings have been demolished in recent years for parking lots, while others are being targeted by developers as a means to assemble large parcels for large-scale development. As each of these streetscapes relies on the coherence of a solid line of buildings, each successive loss greatly diminishes the character of the entire district. In no other part of Chicago can one examine the growth of medium-sized commercial architecture during the critical periods immediately following the Chicago Fire.
It was for that reason that Preservation Chicago recommended that the area be considered for landmarking in 2003.
Update: Shortly after taking office in 2007, Alderman Brendan Reilly (42nd) explored the idea of creating a landmark district for the collection of 1870’s buildings in the district. Although meetings with property owners were held and the Landmarks Commission staff prepared a preliminary report on the architectual integrity of the district, no action has been taken and the project remains on indefinite hold.
For several years prior to Preservation Chicago’s founding in 2001, its members had sought landmark status for Zepf’s Hall, located at Lake and Des Plaines, the only extant building left from the infamous Haymarket Riot of 1886. More than 10 years have past since that recommendation was made and the building still remains unlandmarked. Clearly, once the West Loop office boom picks up Zepf’s Hall will again be ripe for demolition.
Update: Zepf’s Hall is currently occupied.
In 1994, the Illinois Medical District, an agency designated by the State of Illinois, decided that the old Cook County Hospital, located at 1825 W. Harrison, required demolition. Although a brand new organization at the time, Preservation Chicago would not allow this Grand Old Dame to go down without a fight. Read the entire story of this important preservation success.
Update: Although the administration of former Cook County Board President Todd Stroger had approved a $108 Million plan to rehab old Cook County Hospital for administrative offices, the incoming administration of Toni Preckwinkle put all capital construction projects on hold shortly after it took office in December of 2010. However, on April 21, 2011, it was reported that old Cook County would indded be rehabbed as part of a $683 million multi-year capital improvement campaign.
When a demolition permit was issued for the Mercantile Exchange Building, formerly located at the corner of Franklin and Washington in the Loop, in February of 2002, Preservation Chicago went into action. Although the building was demolished the following year, the effort to save it was not in vain because out of that battle came the Demolition Delay Ordinance. Read the full success story.
This stunning church, located at 41st and King Drive was constructed in 1890 by architect John Turner Long. It had hosted many African-American historic events, including early meetings led by A. Philip Randolph to organize the Pullman Porters Union. Famous visitors to the church included Eleanor Roosevelt, Paul Robeson and Thurgood Marshall. Adding to its rich history is the fact that Metropolitan (Apostolic) Community Church has a commanding presence on Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, with a powerful Romanesque design and distinctive reddish-brown stonework.
But on August 25, 2001, Preservation Chicago learned from a former parishioner that the church would soon be demolished. Read the inspiring story of this preservation success.
In the mid-2000’s, several proposals for downtown skyscraper projects revealed a separate and unequal set of standards regarding how the Commission on Chicago Landmarks considered changes to existing Landmarked buildings. Case in point was the 2005 redevelopment plan proposed for the New York Life Building, 29 S. LaSalle St., one of William LeBaron Jenney’s seminal early skyscrapers.
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.