THREATENED: Urgent Action Needed to Protect 70 Historic Buildings Near Lincoln Yards Development Site

SiPi Metals Company Building, formerly the Schoenhofen Brewery Building, Wabansia and Elston Avenues, Photo Credit Google Street View
Purchased by Sterling Bay in 2017

1701 N. Elston Avenue at Wabansia, Photo Credit Google Street View

1529 W. Armitage Street at Mendell Street, Photo Credit Ward Miller

1401 Wabansia Demolition (1666 W. Ada) Photo Credit: Nate Lielasus
Purchased by Sterling Bay on February 21, 2018 and Demolished April 4, 2018

“There was an electric atmosphere among the standing-room-only crowd of 500 people at Wicker Park’s Near North Montessori School Wednesday night. The school hosted the first community meeting for Sterling Bay’s planned $5 billion redevelopment of Lincoln Yards, 70 acres it controls along the North Branch Industrial Corridor.”

“Sterling Bay Managing Principal Andy Gloor and Director of Development Services Erin Lavin Carbonargi framed their presentation in personal terms. Gloor, a 25-year Lincoln Park resident, said he understands the concerns residents have about how Lincoln Yards will impact quality-of-life issues like traffic congestion, population density and having the infrastructure in place to support the influx of new residents, workers and tourists Lincoln Yards will eventually attract.” (Sudo, Bisnow Chicago, 7/19/18)

Lincoln Yards, a project aimed at redeveloping 70 acres of prime riverfront real estate, will transform both banks of the Chicago River’s North Branch between Lincoln Park and Bucktown. Developed by Sterling Bay and master planned by architect Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the mega-project is slated for industrial land formerly occupied by Finkl Steel, General Iron, Lakin Recycling, and the city’s Fleet and Facility Management (2FM) complex. Lincoln Yards will include new offices, hotel rooms, residential units, park space, and an entertainment district anchored by a 20,000-seat stadium. The development will rehab the nearby Metra station, extend the 606 Trail/Bloomingdale Trail eastward over the River, and may include a light rail connection to downtown. (Curbed Chicago, StoryStream, 5/25/18)

“Gloor said Lincoln Yards presents a unique opportunity to redevelop a former industrial site and activate the North Branch riverfront. He said the site was largely preserved by the city’s planned manufacturing district zoning restrictions, and much of the site was a steel mill for a century. “Very rarely do we get a blank slate like this,” Gloor said.

“While much of the former steel mills that make up Lincoln Yards have been razed, Preservation Chicago Executive Director Ward Miller said he obtained a list of 70 architecturally significant buildings along the North Branch Industrial Corridor that could be threatened by new development.” (Sudo, Bisnow Chicago, 7/19/18)

As massive changes are underway within this former industrial corridor, it’s essential that the City of Chicago quickly move to protect these 70 architecturally significant buildings along the North Branch Industrial Corridor. They need to be preserved in order to maintain a connection to the corridor’s history, to insure “quality of life issues”, and to promote healthy communities. Preservation Chicago is actively working with community organizations and is an official member of the North Branch Park Preserve Coalition.

Already, we’ve seen the rapid sale and demolition of architecturally significant industrial buildings in the area, including the prairie school industrial building located at 1401 W. Wabansia Street, (also known as 1666 N. Ada Street) which was sold on February 21, 2018. Despite being a highly regarding and highly successful wedding venue, the building was clearly bought for the underlying land. The demolition permit was released on March 27, 2018 and the building was demolished on April 4, 2018. It is believed that this property is owned by Sterling Bay.  Link to full story in the Preservation Chicago April 2018 Newsletter.

Many of these 70 identified buildings are in fact very important industrial buildings, designed by noteworthy architectural firms and individuals. These include Adler & Sullivan Architects and Louis Sullivan structures at 1440 N. Kingsbury Street Complex/Carbit Paints, originally constructed as the Euston & Company Linseed Oil Plant in 1899 and the Chicago Linoleum Company Plant in 1903 as the plant of the Carbit Paint Company. At 2013 N. Elston/Horween Complex, originally the Herman Loescher Leather Tannery, now the Horween Leather Company complex. The architect of Horween needs to be definitively confirmed, but in past research the taller structure, with a decorative cornice and angled facade elevation appears to be connected to Adler & Sullivan).

Also, Louis Lehle, a famous brewery architect designed the SiPi Metal Corp Site, built and once associated with Schoenhofen Brewery in Pilsen (Schoenhofen buildings in Pilsen are Designed Chicago Landmarks, with the Power House designed by Richard E. Schmidt), at 1700 N. Elston Avenue and the adjoining buildings of the complex, also fronting a side street.

The 2001 N. Elston Avenue complex, now known as the “Self-Storage Building,” which was designed by Simeon Eisendrath, for the Eisendrath Leather and Glove Company. Eisendrath (yes, CEO of the Chicago Sun-Times, Edwin Eisendrath’s relative), worked in the Adler & Sullivan firm and also designed the Chicago Landmark “Plymouth Building” on South Dearborn Street, between the Old Colony Building and the Manhattan Building—all Designated Chicago Landmarks. The Plymouth Court side of the building still has its original cast “Sullivanesque” foliated ornament, by the Winslow Brothers Company, who worked with Louis Sullivan on the Carson Pirie Scott Store cast iron ornament. And needless to say, this is only a very few of the architects and buildings noted in the list of 70 buildings.

Preservation Chicago encourages Chicago Department of Planning and Development Historic Preservation Division/Landmarks also agree to designate some of these buildings as Chicago Landmarks as part of these on-going discussions and agreements for Lincoln Yards/North Branch Corridor area, in tandem with open space and parklands.

A thematic Chicago Landmark “Tannery District” of buildings and another protected district tied to beer brewing and manufacturing could protect many of these significant buildings.

However, the steps must be taken as quickly as possible, as one of the historic buildings identified on the list, 1666 N. Ada, has already been demolished.

Additional Reading
5 Unanswered Questions From Sterling Bay’s First Lincoln Yards Community Meeting, Chuck Sudo, Bisnow Chicago, 7/19/18

Lincoln Yards: A mixed-use megaproject for Chicago’s North Branch

Another North Branch manufacturer to cash out, Alby Gallun, Crain’s Chicago Business, 5/17/17

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