What would you do if you were training for the Chicago marathon and it was cancelled due to COVID-19? Introducing Chicago’s Historic Preservation Marathon!

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What would you do if you were training for the Chicago marathon and it was cancelled due to COVID-19?

For Preservation Chicago’s Director of Community Engagement Mary Lu Seidel, the answer was clear.

Run her own marathon.

But this marathon will focus on traditionally disinvested neighborhoods on Chicago’s South Side. This marathon will run past and highlight some extraordinary historic buildings and some great people who are restoring them.

“When I got the email saying I could roll my registration over to the 2021 marathon, I thought, ‘As if I’m ever going to train for and run a marathon again!’” Seidel said. “I decided it would be way cooler to map my own marathon route – one that would not likely be picked up by the Chicago Marathon organizers.”

Preservation Chicago’s mission is to protect Chicago’s historic built environment, so Seidel chose to focus on a route that highlights the great history on the West and South Sides – especially some places that are currently raising money to restore that history.

The marathon will start at Old Fashioned Donuts on South Michigan Avenue in Roseland, amongst the rich historic buildings that line that street. It will head over to South Chicago, stopping off at the Schlitz Tied House at 9401 S. Ewing being restored by owners Laura Coffey and Mike Medina. It will head north through South Shore, into Jackson Park, going west to run past the Washington Park National Bank Building, and then the home of Emmett Till and Mamie-Till Mobley at 6427 S. St. Lawrence – currently under consideration for Landmark status.

From there it will run through Washington Park, heading north up Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive to 43rd Street. The route turns west on 43rd Street to stop at The Forum Hall in Bronzeville (318-24 E. 43rd Street), being restored by Urban Juncture and Bernard Loyd.

The route turns north on Halsted to Pershing, heading west past the Central Manufacturing District and McKinley Park. The Neighbors for Environmental Justice will be out to meet and greet, sharing their efforts to stop environmental pollutants in McKinley Park caused by the MAT Asphalt Plant.

Heading north on Western Avenue, the route will turn west on Roosevelt Road. Dipping into the newly renamed Frederick Douglass Park, the marathon will end at the Central Park Theater (3531-39 W. Roosevelt Road). The theater’s owner, the House of Prayer Church of God in Christ, is working with Preservation Chicago and a strong coalition of nonprofits on a restoration plan for the iconic theater which was the first Balaban & Katz/Rapp & Rapp movie palace collaboration.

The historic preservation marathon will be a fundraiser for Preservation Chicago as well as community organizations along the route, including:
• The Greater Roseland Chamber of Commerce
• Mike Medina and Laura Coffey for the Schlitz Tied House
• Jackson Park Watch
• Blacks in Green™
• My Block, My Hood, My City
• Neighbors for Environmental Justice
• Central Park Theater
• Little Village Environmental Justice Organization
• Chicago Coalition for the Homeless

Preservation Chicago will also be generating a map of locally owned businesses along the route for people to support.

“The South and West Sides are rich with culture, history and community,” Seidel said. “I am looking forward to spending the day enjoying them – well as much as one can enjoy anything while running a marathon!”

The Preservation Chicago website has a page devoted to the marathon, for donations, highlighting the route, the businesses near the route, and list of historic buildings along the way. Here’s the link for more information.

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