Chicago 7 Most Endangered Buildings - 2016
Washington Park National Bank
Washington Park National Bank, Photo Credit by Eric Allix Rogers
Nellie Black & Martha Wilson Pavilions
Childrens Memorial Hospital, Photo Credit by Ward Miller, Preservation Chicago
Old Chinatown / "Little Cheyenne"
Photo Credit by Preservation Chicago
Sears, Roebuck & Company Stores
Sears, Photo Credit by Ward Miller, Preservation Chicago
McCormick Place Lakeside Center
Lakeside Center McCormick Center, Photo Credit by Ward Miller
St. Adalbert Catholic Church
St. Adalbert Catholic Church, Photo Credit by Eric Allix Rogers
LaSalle/Van Buren "L" Station Houses
CTA Station, Photo Credit by Ward Miller, Preservation Chicago
State of Illinois Building/James R. Thompson Center
Thompson Center, Photo credit by Ward Miller, Preservation Chicago
The 2016 Chicago 7...plus 1!
Washington Park National Bank Postcard, Photo Credit Forgotten Chicago
The Washington Park National Bank Building was constructed in 1924 by architect Albert Schwartz as part of an expansion and relocation of the bank to a more prominent site. The building, constructed of Bedford or Indiana limestone, would include retail shops on the 63rd Street side of the building, with the bank operating from the Cottage Grove frontage.
In later years, the 63rd and Cottage Grove area, contained many great entertainment venues, hotels, ballrooms and was a prominent center of the South Side. The racial make-up of Woodlawn changed beginning in the 1940s, to an African American community, and the area continued to be a prominent location for Jazz-era clubs and all forms of entertainment and shopping, with the community flourishing into the 1960s.
In recent decades, this once prominent intersection has experienced great decline and this amazing banking structure has fallen into disrepair and was mothballed. The building still remains empty and efforts are underway to restore other prominent buildings that remain in the vicinity. Recently a nearby ballroom, known as the “Cinderella Ballroom”, was restored, in addition to a former hotel across the street, known as the Strand Hotel. We at Preservation Chicago are of the opinion that selecting this structure as one of our Chicago’s Most Threatened Buildings for 2016, may encourage a reuse of the building and a restoration of its façade.
Children’s Memorial Hospital 700-701 W. Fullerton Pkwy.
The Renaissance Revival and Classical-Style buildings of the former Children’s Memorial Hospital, at the Northwest and southwest corners of Fullerton and Orchard, were designed by the noted architectural firms of Holabird & Roche and Pickney & Johnson in the 1920s. These two red-brick structures create a transition and gateway to two Chicago Landmark Districts, the Mid-North and the Arlington-Deming Landmark Districts.
Both Nellie Black and the Martha Wilson Pavilions of Children’s Memorial Hospital were discussed for preservation beginning in earnest in 2011. However, both are to be demolished and replaced with new buildings “in the spirit of the old,” but with little historic fabric remaining.
We at Preservation Chicago would offer that these two historic facades remain as part of the development, and that both structures be retrofitted on the interiors and perhaps modify the entries to these buildings to make them ADA accessible as needed. When polled in a City-funded study in January 2009, an overwhelming number of residents voiced support for plans that would adaptively reuse several of the buildings. In that study, 82% voted that they would like to see the Nellie Black and Martha Wilson buildings preserved.
Located adjacent to the historic Loop Elevated Structure on South Clark Street and continuing around the corner onto Van Buren Street is a grouping of six buildings, the last remnants of a long-lost-era of Chicago history. Once known as “Little Cheyenne,” and also known for a time as “Old Chinatown,” it merged the story of politicians, marginal businesses and a colored and checkered history of the city’s underbelly, combining with an ever-growing Asian community. This melting pot of Chicago’s early days after the Fire of 1871 is, today, among the few survivors of the old Loop and the areas extending to the south.
The area received its “Little Cheyenne” name, as it had all of the “Lawlessness of the Old West and was lined with every sort of dive, saloon, gambling house, and house of ill-repute,” “…In response, the residents of Cheyenne, Wyoming, referred to their own red-light district as ittle Chicago,” according to one source.
The two-story structure at Van Buren and Clark Street was designed as the “Yukon Building”, an 1897 “taxpayer building” designed by Holabird & Roche, and commissioned by the Brooks Brothers of Boston, who also developed the nearby Monadnock Building and the Rookery. The site of the two-story Yukon Building, now known as the “Bock Building” was to be the location of a much larger and taller 12-story structure. However, a financial panic in the mid-1890s, and the construction of the Union Loop Elevated, most likely impacted the desirability of Van Buren Street and this clean-lined, early glass and steel building survives to this day as a fine remnant of lost Chicago.
In the 1920s a large effort was made to improve the living conditions of the city’s Chinese and Asian populations by relocating them to a new area, a few miles to the south, along Cermak/22nd Street and focused along Wentworth Avenue in the Bridgeport/Armour Square area.
This was also an area where the City’s many train terminals and stations once abounded, from the LaSalle Street Station, to the Dearborn Station, North Shore Line and Grand Central Station, most of which have been closed, lost, demolished, merged or reconstituted. This area was also severely impacted by demolition and the widening of Congress Parkway in the 1950s, as it became part of an entry ramp and extension to the newly built Congress/Eisenhower Expressway and I-90/I-94 Interstate Highway System.
Looking beyond the current usage there is an amazing story of architecture, an early and dense Asian community and an assemblage of buildings, reflecting Chicago before the advent of the larger buildings of the Chicago School and the large full-block developments of the 20th and 21st centuries.
Sears Roebuck & Company grew from a mail-order catalog businesses in Chicago to a juggernaut of corporation, with Julius Rosenwald becoming among the City’s most active and remembered philanthropists.
Across Chicago and across the country, Sears, Roebuck & Company was “Where America Shops,” as the jingle once advertized. These stores were built by a variety of forward-thinking and modern architectural firms, with many designed between 1927-1942 by George Nimmons and his firms, and under the direction of Robert E. Wood, Chairman of Sears Roebuck. This included a network of factories, stores, distribution centers and mills all unified and developed under Wood’s leadership.
From its Chicago headquarters in the North Lawndale community, built in 1905 at Homan and Arthington Streets and designed by Nimmons & Fellows, Sears began a large campaign in 1925 to develop stores nationally and converting mail order distribution facilities, built in the teens and twenties, into stores. In Chicago we had seven stores by 1934, all designed by Nimmons, with the only exception being the State Street Flagship.
These stores were located at:
• Homan and Arthington – 100,000 sq ft in 1925 (demolished in 1995)
• Lawrence Avenue and Winchester Street, 1925 (still operating as a Sears Store)
• 79th Street and Kenwood Avenue, 1925 (now closed and mothballed)
• Western Avenue and 62nd Street, 1927 (store now closed and reused)
• 403 S. State Street, 1932 (converted Leiter II Building/ former Siegel & Cooper Store, closed in the 1980s and now Robert Morris College)
•63rd and Halsted, 1934 (demolished)
• Irving Park Boulevard and Cicero Avenue- also known as “Six Corners,” 1938 (still operating as a Sears Store)
In all, there were 84 “A” stores constructed between 1927 and 1942 across the country. 28 have been demolished, with many others currently vacant and many altered. In 2006, preservationist and historian Richard Longstreth detailed the stores’ status in an article in the Society for Architectural Historians Journal, “Sears Roebuck and the Department Store, 1924-1942.”
Noting that the 63rd and Halsted and Homan and Arthington Stores have been previously closed and demolished, Preservation Chicago wishes to protect other company stores from neglect and loss. Also, recognizing that the Sears Complex on Homan Avenue has been Landmarked, and noting that other buildings by Nimmons located elsewhere in Chicago have been recognized as designated Chicago Landmarks, we feel that these buildings would qualify for a landmark designation.
With the possibility of additional Sears stores closing across Chicago and across the country, we would like to see the remaining stores and buildings, at Lawrence and Winchester, 79th and Kenwood, Western and 63rd and Irving Park and Cicero-Six Corners – four buildings in total – be considered for further protections and Landmark Designation, and that these four buildings be considered as one “thematic district” for historic preservation.
This building, which replaced a 1960s concrete box referred to as “the mistake on the lake,” is now the oldest section of the McCormick Place complex. It is comprised of lightweight steel and glass, and at one time also featured open access to water for viewers to experience the lake and the lakefront park in addition to the south end of Burnham Harbor. It is also the world’s largest space-frame structure, and a feat of engineering in its day.
Architects Gene Summers and Helmut Jahn were students of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, whose work was filled with various published studies for a convention hall for Chicago. While the end result of the Lakeside Center of McCormick Place II is not a direct copy of the works of Mies, many of the concepts, ideas, spatial arrangements and site placement, brick plinth and volumetric spaces are a result of the much noted and highly published studies.
In the past decades, a number of large additions have been made to the McCormick Place complex. The Lakeside building is less frequently used, except for the Arie Crown Theater. The large convention hall space of the main hall has a permanent partition wall sub-dividing one of Chicago’s great and vast interior spaces. Talk in the past has also turned to demolition and replacement.
Preservation Chicago believes this is one of Chicago’s great mid- century modern buildings. It features two levels of expansive exhibition halls, one on the main level sheathed in glass with others hidden in the lower level of the building. These could be repurposed for a variety of functions including Chicago’s most expansive and comprehensive field house, recreational center and cultural center – with the large glass rooms housing indoor tennis courts and basketball courts in natural daylight, along with a running track and other amenities.
Originally constructed for a Polish congregation in the Pilsen neighborhood, St. Adalbert Roman Catholic Church is a Renaissance Revival complex designed by noted church architect Henry J. Schlacks, who worked for a time in the offices of Adler & Sullivan. It’s soaring 185- foot twin towers are the highest structures in the Pilsen neighborhood and easily recognizable.
The parish was founded in 1874. The earlier church structure was replaced by the current St. Adalbert in 1912. It is not only a fine example of Renaissance Revival architecture but also a chronicle of Polish history. The central figure of the church is a large statue of St. Adalbert and murals, stained glass windows and even the interior color scheme celebrate important Polish national heritage.
Fronting the street, the two buff-colored brick towers are ornamented with finely detailed terra cotta, pierced by arcades and capped by copper cupolas. Visitors enter through a portico defined by a series of polished granite Corinthian columns. Once inside, the interior is a soaring rectangular space based upon the form of Roman basilica.
St. Adalbert was listed on our Chicago 7 list in 2014. We are taking the extraordinary step of listing it again in 2016 as a bonus 8th entry because the threat has continued and intensified. The church’s towers have been under scaffolding for over a year, and in early 2016 the Archdiocese announced that St. Adalbert would be closed. The church’s members have been trying to fundraise to perform needed work on the towers, but the $3 million goal will be difficult to reach. Preservation Chicago hopes that by placing the building on our list again we can call attention to the threat and rally city-wide support for the preservation of this critically important neighborhood landmark and gathering-place.
This Queen Anne Style pair of Station Houses (located on the north and south sides of the railroad tracks) were constructed in 1897, as part of the Union Loop Elevated, the train system and trestle that circles the Central Business District of Chicago, along Lake Street, Wabash Avenue, Van Buren and Wells (once known as Fifth Avenue). The system was originally comprised of several rail lines, including the South Side Elevated Railroad, the Lake Street Elevated Railroad, the Metropolitan West Side Railroad and the Union Consolidated Elevated Railroad. Originally, there were 12 stations, with three on each leg of the Loop.
John Alexander Low Waddell, the “Father of Modern Bridge Engineering” was the designer of the LaSalle/Van Buren Station House on the Chicago Loop Elevated, in addition to the trestle structure and all of the individual station houses, which once lined all four sides of the Loop. Waddell practiced from the 1870s to his death in 1938, designing bridges and spans in the United States. His work extended to Canada, Mexico, Russia, Japan, China and New Zealand – across the world.
The Loop Elevated has been part of the National Register of Historic Places since the 1970s. In spite of that recognization, several of the station houses have been lost, replaced or modified. This world treasure has a history that reaches far beyond Chicago.
We would like to encourage the City to protect the “orange-rated” LaSalle/Van Buren Station House and to designate additional historic stations, all remaining original features and the entire Union Loop Elevated trestle structure and assembly, which was made a National Register property in 1978. We feel that this would encourage sensitive attention and authentic restoration of lost features to this Chicago Landmark which is such an important symbol of our City.
Once one of Chicago’s most controversial building projects, the State of Illinois building/James R. Thompson Center is also one of our City’s most iconic 1980s buildings. The State of Illinois building was one of architect Helmut Jahn’s most significant public buildings at the time, and a bold idea in its design to represent the State of Illinois. The public space of the 17-story skylight and public atrium is nothing less than spectacular.
Recently Governor Rauner was heavily quoted in the press saying he’d like to sell the building and that demolition costs would be minimal. Preservation Chicago believes that this building – including the Jean Dubuffet sculpture in its plaza and soaring central atrium – were built by and for the people of the State of Illinois and therefore should remain standing and accessible to the public. We argue that the City of Chicago should move quickly to Landmark and protect this building and plaza, designed by one of the city’s most famous contemporary architects, whose career began here and whose work is now seen around the world from Chicago to Shanghai.
Every year, Preservation Chicago announces its “Chicago’s 7” list of Most Endangered Buildings. The purpose of the Chicago 7 is to raise public awareness about the threats facing some of Chicago’s most at-risk architectural treasures, whether they are a single building like Helmut Jahn’s Thompson Center, an entire neighborhood, or a thematic category of buildings such as former Sears Stores across the city.
This year we have taken the extraordinary step of expanding our list to include 8 entries, in order to call attention to the exceptional threat to one of the city’s most magnificent Catholic churches, Pilsen’s St. Adalbert.
Press “Thompson Center, Old Chinatown Among Chicago’s Most ‘Endangered’ Buildings,” DNAInfo “Thompson Center tops list of most threatened Chicago buildings,” Chicago Tribune “Preservation Chicago Releases List of Most Endangered Buildings,” WTTW