Chicago 7 Most Endangered Buildings - 2013
Allstate Building, Photo Credit by Jacob Kaplan
Century & Consumers Building - 2013 Chicago 7
Century and Consumers Buildings, Photo Credit by Chuckman Collection
St. James Church
St. James Catholic Church (Patrick C. Keely, 1895), Photo Credit by Eric Allix Rogers
State Bank of Clearing
State Bank of Clearing, Photo Credit by Jacob Kaplan
Lathrop Homes, Photo Credit by Ward Miller, Preservation Chicago
Medic Building, Photo Credit by Preservation Chicago
Overview and Map - 2013 Chicago 7
Photo Credit by Ward Miller, Preservation Chicago
Designed by the noteworthy architectural firm of Carr and Wright, the Allstate Headquarters Building is a rare example of immediate post- war modern high-rise construction in the city of Chicago. It was the first multi-story building constructed in Chicago since the beginning of WWII and its unique elements make it a clear candidate for reuse and reservation. Completed in 1949 as the national headquarters for the Allstate Insurance Company, it is an important contributing structure and respectfully compliments the noteworthy collection of other buildings on the Sears campus.
The Allstate Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Sears, Roebuck and Company, had outgrown its headquarters in the Civic Opera Building by the 1940s and was looking for new space for its national headquarters. Allstate decided to construct a brand new structure on the campus of its parent company, Sears Roebuck and Company. Carr and Wright were chosen as the architects. The firm was Sears’ corporate architects, and George W. Carr and Clark C. Wright along with George C. Nimmons, who retired from the firm in 1944, had previously designed the rest of the Sears complex, including its distinctive tower, as well as many architecturally notable Sears retail outlets in Chicago and across the country. The unique structure that the firm produced was clearly a product of its time and one of the most significant immediate post-war structures in Chicago. In fact, it was the first multi-story building constructed in Chicago since the start of World War II. Designed to fit in with its surroundings, the two color tones of brick matched well with the rest of the complex. But the new building, completed in 1949, stuck a modern chord. Metal-framed double hung windows accentuated the horizontal bands of the 10-story structure and the interior featured marble and terrazzo finishings. Innovative technological elements included air-conditioning and centralized climate control throughout and extensive use of interior fluorescent lighting.
The building has stood vacant and deteriorating for a number of years. While the rest of the Sears complex has seen significant redevelopment efforts, including the award-winning Power House High reuse in the former powerhouse, Allstate has been neglected. If a reuse for this important building is not found soon, demolition may be the next step.
A new tenant willing to restore and reuse this architecturally significant structure must be found. It might be reused as the headquarters for a city agency, a not-for-profit, or another office or residential use. Chicago Landmark status should also be obtained for the structure, considering its historic and architecturally significant pedigree.
Commanding an imposing presence on the 200 block of South State Street, two historic terra cotta buildings, located at 202 and 220 South State Street respectively, could be lost to future redevelopment by the Federal Government. Listed on the Chicago’s Most Threatened list only 2 years ago, these two buildings remain vacant and no reuse plans for either structure have been proposed. In 2012, unsecured terra cotta detached from the building, reigniting concern about the future of these properties.
The 202 S. State Street Building was designed by the noted firm Holabird and Roche. It is historically unique for two important reasons. First, the distinct vertical expression of the exterior elevations of this building portends the transition from the Chicago School buildings of the late 19th Century to the Art Deco of the 1920s. Emphasis of verticality is achieved with strong, deep verticals with understated recessed spandrels. Second, the overall design of the façade ornament is a rare example of Neo-Manueline, which was inspired by the historic Portuguese style. The proliferation of complex ornament around building openings, such as windows and doors, features shields with dragons, botanical motifs and pinnacles. This 15-story office building is listed as a contributing structure to the Loop Retail Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places. It has been determined by a GSA (General Services Administration) study that it may be eligible for an individual National Register listing according to a March 2006 Cultural Resources Survey. It also received an Orange rating in the 1996 Chicago Historic Resources Survey.
The firm, Jenney, Mundie, and Jensen designed the 220 S. State Street Building, completed in 1913. This iconic building represents the last of the Chicago School designs, also known as the Commercial style, along with its neighbor the Century Building. Typical of the school, the building is constructed with a steel-frame and boasts minimal ornamentation. Overall, the building stands at 21 stories and is clad in a white terra cotta facade. One week after the building permit was granted, a new Chicago building code limited the height of buildings to 200 feet. Windows adorn all four sides so that light reaches all parts of the floor plates, precluding the need for an interior light well. Floors two to four show the typical Chicago window, while the remaining floors are aluminum double-hung windows. The street facades are recognized for the tripartite design, which consists of a base, shaft and capital separated by simple, conservative cornices. The spandrels are detailed either with a centered rectangle and a diamond on each side or just a simple rectangle. In contrast, the interior spaces are highly ornamented. The lobby features terrazzo floors and Italian marble walls and ceiling. Several alternations have been made to the facade of the building. The bronze canopy over the State Street entrance was removed along with two storefronts and the original roof that included a frieze band and cornice with lights was also removed.
The history of 202 S. State began when Buck & Rayner, a pioneer Chicago drug firm, later absorbed by Liggett Drug stores, commissioned the noted Chicago architectural firm Holabird & Roche in 1913 to design a modern commercial skyscraper. Completed in 1915, the Twentieth Century Building is an excellent example of a tall shops building. Its upper floors were occupied by a wide variety of tenants through the years including tailors, furriers, beauty shops, clothes shops, lawyers, brokers, and dentists, reinforcing the commercial district within the Loop. The Twentieth Century Building’s name was later changed to just the Century.
The irreparable damage that demolition of these historic buildings will have on South State Street cannot be underestimated. Their facades provide an important anchor for the existing street-wall. If demolished, not only will Chicago lose two important early Chicago School-influenced skyscrapers by two of the most important architecture firms, it will also create a lifeless void that will suck the energy out of one of downtown’s most vibrant intersections. Chicago does not need another vacant lot or windswept plaza, nor does it need any more lost historic buildings. Every effort should be made to repurpose these buildings and get them back on the tax rolls. Moreover, there are also concerns regarding the impact that demolition of 202 S. State St. would have on two neighboring buildings that compose the historic Berghoff Restaurant at 17 W. Adams St. A recent structural survey has concluded that the Berghoff buildings would lose significant structural stability that they currently received from the structural frame of 202 S. State.
Every effort should be made to preserve both 202 and 220 S. State Street. Since the buildings are already owned by the federal government, they should be rehabilitated for government use. In an era of ever-shrinking tax dollars, now is not the time to use public dollars to destroy historic buildings. If properly repurposed for government use, these two buildings could serve the citizens for another 100 years or more.
Although the demolition of St. James Church appears to some to be the political will of the Archdiocese of Chicago, a coalition of St. James parishioners, preservationists and the faithful of many area Roman Catholic churches have formed “Friends of Historic St. James” and this new coalition is determined to save it from the wrecker’s ball. With services moved into the adjoining church hall for the past few years because of deferred maintenance and the ongoing repairs to address code violations, coalition members have been reaching out to city officials to save the building, envisioning that preservation presents a new opportunity to reoccupy the church and grow the parish.
Construction of St. James Catholic Church was completed in 1880. The church had such a strong following at that time, and having received so many donations, that it was debt-free by 1895, leading St. James Parish to be the first Catholic edifice in Chicago to be consecrated. As the wealthy Irish families of Michigan, Wabash, and Indiana Avenues moved away in the 1910s, the African American population grew to become a cornerstone of the Bronzeville community. It was not until the 1960s, after the parish’s 100th Anniversary, that Reverend Rollins E. Lambert, the first African-American priest to be ordained by the Archdiocese of Chicago would be appointed pastor, signifying the church’s acceptance of the mostly African American neighborhood and the racial diversity of St. James Parish. The revitalization of the area in the late 1960s and 70s saw an increase in hospital staff from nearby Mercy and Michael Reese Hospitals, students from the Illinois Institute of Technology and the elderly from local senior citizen housing projects. These parishioners organized themselves and repaired the building in 1972, when a fire ravaged the western apse, bringing a sense of rejuvenation to the parish and the church. Today, a food pantry serves 1,800 families a week and the loss of the church and the potential loss of the parish could jeopardize the good works it provides to some of Chicago’s most needy families.
Architect Patrick C. Keely crafted a fine example of the Gothic Revival style for St. James, enhancing his reputation for masterful ecclesiastic structures and, for years to come, his colleagues would refer to St. James as Keely’s “achievement in art.” The exterior included spire turrets and was created from local Joliet limestone. At one time, according to the parish history, a tower of twenty bells was brought from the east coast and hung in the tall tower and spire. The largest bell weighed 5,000 pounds and could be heard from eight miles away. The vast interior of the church could seat 1,100 people and contained marble columns with light green marble banding. However, some of the original Tiffany windows and other art glass were destroyed in the fire as firemen broke them to extinguish the fire and thus save the church from further devastation.
The fire took place on December 22, 1972 just three days before Christmas and damaged the apse, or front of the sanctuary, and the original altar. There was a great response from the community, who rallied to raise the funds needed for reconstruction, despite a luke-warm reception from Cardinal Cody and the Archdiocese of Chicago. According to parishioners, Cardinal Cody, OMI signed his name on the check to pay the restoration contractors, and below his signature wrote “I still do not agree that this church building should be standing.” The interior was repainted white and where art glass windows were missing, they were replaced with translucent panels and new lighting, giving the space a contemporary feel, not unlike that of the 1969 remodeling of its sister church, also by Keely, Holy Name Cathedral.
Patrick C. Keely (1816-1896) was an Irish-American architect based in Brooklyn, New York and Providence, Rhode Island. He was the in-house architect of the Roman Catholic Church and designed nearly six hundred churches and hundreds of other institutional buildings. The vernacular and often monumental buildings are found in America’s landscape from Nova Scotia and Prince Edward’s Island to the Gulf of Mexico and beyond.
In Chicago he is best known as the original architect of Holy Name Cathedral in 1874. A gifted artist, expert wood carver and draftsman, Patrick Keely left a great mark on the Roman Catholic and Protestant communities for whom he built some of the most noted churches and cathedrals in the United States. He was also the second man to receive the gold medal annually awarded by the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, to prominent Catholics of the country.
The congregation was promised a new church in August of 2012, to be located two blocks east, near Michigan Avenue. However, that site has not yet been purchased and recent news of deep financial troubles within the Archdiocese will most likely prevent these plans from moving forward. The Archdiocese of Chicago obtained a demolition permit in December 2012, on Christmas Eve. The estimates to repair the structure provided by the Archdiocese have been vigorously challenged by the coalition, which contends that repairs can be done for far less, freeing more resources which would allow them to worship in their sanctuary once more. Although the demolition permit remains valid, the Archdiocese has agreed not to begin demolition until April. Grounded in their faith and with unwavering resolve, the coalition is more determined than ever to preserve their “Mother Church of the South Side,” as it was noted in Father George Lane’s book, “Chicago Churches and Synagogues.”
Little time remains to save St. James Church. Friends of Historic St. James have organized a petition and have developed a website. They are asking for help in appealing to Cardinal Francis George to rescind the demolition permit and to restore the church in the vibrant multi-racial community. A vigil is planned for Sunday, March 17, 2013 in front of the church at 10:30am and is part of their ongoing campaign called Save St. James in 40 days, the 40 days of Lent. They urge everyone to please write or call Cardinal George and ask him to say yes to the preservation of historic St. James Church and to follow their website SaveHistoricStJamesChurch.com.
Standing as an important early work of world-renowned Chicago architect Harry Weese, the State Bank of Clearing is unique in the realm of bank building design. Featuring a stunning banking lobby with angled columns and a distinctive drive-up window configuration, the State Bank of Clearing is an important example of Mid-Century Modern bank architecture. Vacant for years, the building is currently for sale and awaiting a reuse. However, demolition is a possibility for the site.
The State Bank of Clearing was the main bank in Clearing even before it was annexed to the city in 1915. When the bank outgrew its previous facilities at the corner of 63rd and Central, it opted to move a few blocks east and hired architect Harry Weese to design a new structure. The resulting design by Weese, and architect Ezra Gordon, another prominent member of Weese’s firm, was revolutionary for its time. Because of the limited size of the site, Weese devised a unique-for-its time drive-up structure that was integrated into the bank and allowed tellers to service both walk-up and drive-up tellers at the same time. The interior grand hall was simple but dramatic and featured angled columns that reflected Weese’s design principles and were very similar to the support columns on Weese’s United States Embassy in Accra, Ghana. The State Bank of Clearing was prominently regarded as innovative and unique upon its construction. It was featured in numerous period architectural journals, including Architectural Record and Architectural Forum. Additionally it was featured as a building of note in the 1969 edition of the architectural guidebook Chicago’s Famous Buildings.
The building has stood vacant and for sale for a number of years since the last bank tenant moved to a neighboring location. The drive-up structure and other elements are deteriorating and it is in danger of demolition by neglect.
A new tenant willing to restore and reuse this architecturally significant structure must be found. This building is also a clear candidate for Chicago Landmark status, and the Chicago Department of Housing and Economic Development is likely willing to support landmark status if a new owner desires such a designation in order to qualify for historic tax incentives for the building’s restoration.
Lathrop Homes returns to Preservation Chicago’s 7 Most Threatened list after first appearing in 2007. Arguably, Julia Lathrop Homes is the best public housing development Chicago has ever built, representing a racially mixed, 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. But, after years of contentious community meetings, seemingly endless presentations and often fruitless discussions with the Chicago Housing Authority and the master development team, the redevelopment as currently proposed will still demolish almost half of the historic buildings, destroy much of the lush landscapes and commercialize and densify the site to a point beyond what the community is willing to accept, destroying much of the complex’s historic fabric.
During the depths of the Great Depression, the Federal government 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.
The development is small scale, low-density and well integrated with the surrounding neighborhood. The design owes much to the earlier 19th century industrial towns like Saltaire, New Lanark and Pullman as well as to the Garden City tradition started by Ebenezer Howard in England – naturalistic setting, brick construction, low-rise buildings, curving walks and streets, informal siting of buildings, ample open green space, and simple ornamentation.
The best way to know the Lathrop Homes is to go there and walk through the community. You will experience a neighborhood with the sense of individual, personal dwellings. Among the “all-star” architects was Robert S. De Golyer, a designer of posh Lake Shore Drive high-rises. He was the team leader, providing a classical elegance that included fine brickwork, stone rooftop finials and arched arcades linking the buildings, which echoed his work for the wealthy. Hugh M.G. Garden was one of the respected former practitioners of the old “Chicago School,” imparting a meld of modernism and livable traditionalism.
Jens Jensen was a legendarily, and often ornery, outspoken landscape designer known for his ideals of the native landscape and its populist, life-enhancing qualities for all. Many of Jensen’s original trees still remain in place, and have now aged into the sheltering maturity he envisioned. The townhouses included small kitchen gardens in which residents raised fresh vegetables right outside their doors.
Timeline of Significant Recent Events:
• 2006 – Lathrop Leadership Team created to represent concerns of Lathrop residents and the community.
• January 2010 – CHA releases a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) seeking a redevelopment team.
• September 2010 – Lathrop Community Partners (LPC) a consortium of real estate developers, housing agencies and other parties selected to oversee entire redevelopment and management of a new Lathrop.
• February 2011 – LPC begins series of individual stakeholder interviews.
• November 2011 – kick-off meeting held in community to introduce the design and development team.
• December 2011- community “workshops” convene just before Christmas holidays.
• September 2012 – Three LPC site plans are prematurely leaked to the public, none of which contained a viable historic preservation scenario.
• November 2012 – Three plans formally presented at two community meetings.
• February 2013 – Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) initiate the federal 106 Process, which allows Consulting Parties to find alternatives to demolition.
At this writing, a single redevelopment proposal for the entire site is being created which, ostensibly, takes the myriad concerns of all of the stakeholders into account. However, if the past is prologue, then any lingering community skepticism about what will be produced could be justifiably warranted.
Lathrop Homes is a viable, ethnically diverse urban community with structurally sound buildings. Preservation Chicago, as a longtime stakeholder and official Consulting Party, continues to advocate for the preservation of this historic community, its buildings and its landscapes. The fight we joined in 2006 will continue with the same vigor as when we first began. Ultimately, there will be changes to the property. We accept that. However, our mission is to ensure that those changes and additions are respectful and sensitive to the intent of the original architects, and that they enhance the existing community for both residents and neighbors alike.
The Medic building, situated at the corner of Melrose and Ashland, is an extremely intact example of a Chicago building with art deco detailing. This intersection, in conjunction with Belmont and Ashland, was an important commercial hub when the building was constructed in 1929. Many of the structures from this time have already been lost to new development and these losses have erased much of this retail and commercial history. The Medic Building is a reminder of this time and provides much needed architectural interest in the area. In addition, Chicago does not have the wealth of art deco buildings that other cities, such as New York, do. This building is one stunning example of the style on the North Side that can be preserved to showcase its importance as an architectural expression around 1930.
Work began on The Medic Building in 1929 after Frederick H. Meyer acquired the 50’x117’ site in order to construct medical offices and a new space for his store, the Meyer Drug Company, which had already been in the neighborhood for a quarter century. The architect, M. F. Strauch, was based out of Chicago and designed other various structures in the city, including St. Andrew’s Evangelical Lutheran School and Parish. The general contractor on the project was Paul Mueller and Sons, a local Chicago firm. The two story masonry structure initially housed twenty doctor’s offices and two retail spaces. These tenants changed over time and the most recent tenant was the Chicago Title Insurance Company.
In 2007, the area was rezoned after a request was made by Lakeview Collection, LLC to create a Planned Development on the site. The proposal had included retail, residential and park space and would have involved the destruction of the Medic Building, which would have been replaced by a bank and a loading dock. The project never moved forward due to the depressed economy; however Lakeview Collection did take steps to vacate all tenants from the premises. In addition, the company has been involved in a complex lawsuit with their primary lessee, Bank of America, over the parcel. According to the 2007 report from the City Council in response to the request for a planned development, Lakeview Collection had until March of 2013 to begin construction or the parcel would revert back to its previous zoning. There is a provision that would allow Lakeview Collection one extra year if they could prove they have “good cause”. However, all of this became moot in February of 2013, when it was confirmed that the Target Corporation had purchased the entire site for a new retail store.
Preservation Chicago has recommended to the Target Corporation that the Medic Building be preserved and incorporated into their new big box structure. Their recent rehabilitation of the Landmarked Carson Pirie Scott building by Louis Sullivan has proven that Target has the vision to incorporate historic preservation into their business plan and can be a respectful neighbor. Alderman Tom Tunney (44th) also supports preservation of the building. A preserved Medic Building incorporated into a new Target store would be a win-win for both the community and the Target Corporation.
Originally part of an architecturally and culturally booming West Garfield Park community, the long and steady decline of the neighborhood has only further made the rehabilitation of this rare and magnificent Moorish Revival hotel more challenging. Beautifully constructed of red and cream brick with deep red terra cotta detailing, the Guyon Hotel’s interior is in various states of decay, in contrast to the richness of its once-magnificent grand ballrooms and other interior spaces. Vacant until recently, the site has had multiple owners over the years. It was finally converted from a residential hotel to a single-room-occupancy apartment in the late 1980s. Listed last year on Landmarks Illinois’ 10 Most Endangered list, the Guyon faces a disappointing lack of interested developers willing to take on the project as well as series of on-going code violations that may force the city to condemn and ultimately demolish the property.
The Guyon Hotel (also known as the Hotel Guyon) was designed by Jensen J. Jensen in 1927 after being commissioned by local businessman and ballroom dancing impresario J. Louis Guyon, of French-Canadian descent. There is the common misconception that this architect was the same as the Famous landscape architect, Jensen Jensen, however the two are completely unrelated. A club owner and dance instructor, Guyon found little success in the hotel business, mostly due to the nasty reputation of mob ties to Al Capone. The hotel, built for $1.65 million dollars ($22 million in today’s dollars) remained under the ownership of Guyon until 1934, at which time it was sold. It was sold again in 1964, buy after the upheaval from the 1968 riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King, the area began a steep decline leading to the transition of Guyon into a single-room-occupancy dwelling. Never a profitable hotel, even at its inception, the Guyon suffered through numerous attempts to rehabilitate it over the next 30 years. Its most famous resident, however, may have been former President Jimmy Carter, who stayed there for a week in a dingy room while in the city working for Habitat for Humanity. Today, The Guyon stands vacant, deteriorating and in need of a sympathetic redevelopment plan.
Located in West Garfield Park, the community has attempted to place Guyon Hotel as the lynch-pin to redevelopment for decades to no avail. In the last fifteen years the building has changed ownership a total of seven times, with no owner ever completing significant repairs to the structure. While the building is on the National Register of Historic Places, due mostly to Jimmy Carter’s stay, the structure itself has no legal protection as a local landmark, although it is listed on the National Register of historic places, making it fair game for demolition and development.
The Guyon, as well as its surrounding neighborhood, clearly need help. Although Landmarks Illinois tried valiantly over the last year to interest a developer to rehabilitate the property, in the end those efforts did not end in success. To that end, perhaps it is time for the city itself to become involved before it is too late. At this writing, Illinois legislators are working to pass a state historic tax credit. If that occurs, perhaps the Guyon can be used as the demonstration project with a positive resul