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.