THREATENED: ‘Concrete or Limestone’ Question Remains Unanswered for Promontory Point Despite Earmarking of Federal Infrastructure Funds (Chicago 7 2006)

Original limestone revetments at Promontory Point, 1938, Alfred Caldwell. Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers

Promontory Point Conservancy, Promontory Point, 1938, Alfred Caldwell. Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers

“Projects to protect Chicago’s ‘fragile’ lakefront from the impacts of climate change and invasive species will receive millions of dollars in federal funding. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ General Reevaluation Report — an upcoming study of lakefront protection needs across Chicago — is among the projects supported by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed in November. Illinois will receive $17 billion of the $1.3 trillion package.

“The priority areas include Juneway Beach; Promontory Point; 67th to 73rd streets, including La Rabida Children’s Hospital; and the South Water Purification Plant at Rainbow Beach.

“‘Lake Michigan is a crucial and iconic part of Chicago,’ Mayor Lori Lightfoot said. ‘We not only rely upon it for our clean water, but its beautiful shoreline draws residents and visitors alike to our city, making it vital to our tourism industry and economy as a whole. It is the thing that sets us apart from every other city in the country.’

“Any shoreline upgrades at the ‘iconic’ Promontory Point, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, must be completed with the state’s Historic Preservation Officer’s guidance, Lightfoot said.

“The Hyde Park-area residents who have demanded the city preserve and rehabilitate the Point’s historical limestone barriers — not replace them with concrete — will also be involved, she said. ‘They’re gonna have one or two opinions about what happens at Promontory Point,’ Lightfoot said.

“Rep. Robin Kelly, who was also on hand for Thursday’s news conference, supports a ‘true preservation approach’ to repairing the Point’s limestone barriers, according to the Hyde Park Herald.” (Evans, Block Club Chicago, 1/28/22)

“The non-profit organization Preservation Chicago reignited the debate surrounding the restoration of Promontory Point’s limestone at a September meeting of the Commission on Chicago Landmarks Program Committee. Currently, the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) and the Chicago Park District plan to demolish and replace the Point’s limestone revetments with a concrete-and-steel barrier. But a nomination for landmark designation by Preservation Chicago, which, as outlined by the City, would necessitate a preservationist approach to its restoration, may hold promise for preventing the limestone’s demolition.

“Promontory Point is a forty-acre artificial peninsula running from 54th to 56th Streets on Chicago’s lakefront. Its landscape design was developed by renowned architect Alfred Caldwell, and the limestone revetments were built in between 1937 and 1938 as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project meant to serve as a buffer against flooding from DuSable Lake Shore Drive. Now, the Point serves as a recreational place for residents.

“Chicago’s lakeshore limestone barriers were built nearly one hundred years ago. CDOT and the Park District determined in 1993 that the limestone revetments had degraded to the point where they no longer sufficiently protected the shore against flooding and erosion. A $300 million plan to repair or replace revetments from Montrose Ave. to 79th Street was created by the Chicago Park District, the City of Chicago, and the Army Corps of Engineers. Emergency protection measures at the Morgan Shoal nearby were completed in 2020. The City announced work underway for the final restoration project at Morgan in April 2021, with the Point being the next and final project.

“In 2000, the Park District and CDOT presented a plan to demolish the limestone and replace it with concrete, a move the Promontory Point Conservancy stated on their website ‘severely restricted access to the water.’ Support from the community and from then-Senator Barack Obama in 2006 pushed the City to further consider a preservationist approach. Finally, in 2018, the Promontory Point Conservancy applied for Promontory Point to be listed as part of the National Register of Historic Places, and this status was awarded, which according to the conservancy group is a positive step towards protecting the limestone.

“Preservation Chicago deals with the landmarking of historic sites, and Promontory Point is one of their priorities in terms of taking action for its preservation. In an interview for The Weekly, Ward Miller, its executive director, described his own experiences, and those of his parents and other members of the community, with the Point as a place for social gathering. Miller said, ‘Your soul is a little wrapped in these communities.’

“The suggestion for a landmark designation was submitted by Preservation Chicago at the September meeting. The Chicago Landmarks Committee received over one hundred emails and letters from residents and community groups in support of granting the Point a landmark designation. Miller pointed to the inherent beauty of the Point and its importance to the South Side. He also points to a similar landmarking process in notable pieces of architecture like Caldwell’s Lincoln Park Lily Pool. ‘If we landmarked a Caldwell landscape on the North Side, I think we should landmark a Caldwell landscape on the South Side.’

“Preservation Chicago hopes that federal infrastructure funding will be directed towards important restoration projects such as these, making the Point’s restoration a greater priority. He said he hopes that, with greater funds for infrastructure and restoration, along with a landmark designation, the limestone revetments can simply be reset on a new foundation, so that community residents can enjoy them for generations to come.” (Morrow, South Side Weekly, 1/12/22)

Read the full story at South Side Weekly and Block Club Chicago

Plans To Protect Chicago’s Shoreline, Block Asian Carp From The Great Lakes Receive Millions In Federal Funding; igh lake levels, flooding and erosion in recent years are “a forewarning of what’s to come without swift [and] decisive action” to protect the lakefront, Rep. Bobby Rush said Thursday, Maxwell Evans, Block Club Chicago, 1/28/22

Would a Landmark Designation Protect the Point’s Limestone? Molly Morrow, South Side Weekly, 1/12/22

Rep. Kelly calls for ‘true preservation approach’ to Promontory Point in Army Corps letter, Marc Monaghan, Hyde Park Herald, 12/10/21

Full letter of support for Promontory Point from Re. Robin Kelly to U.S. Army Corps of Engineering

Rush, Kelly vote to pass $2 trillion social policy and climate package; Stress local benefits in ‘Build Back Better’; bill will go to Senate, Aaron Gettinger, Hyde Park Herald, 11/19/21

Building commission picks architect and engineer for Morgan Shoal redesign, Marc Monaghan, Hyde Park Herald, 10/7/21

Hairston voices support for Point landmarking at ward meeting, Christian Belanger, Hyde Park Herald, 9/29/21

Promontory Point Conservancy Website

2022 Promontory Point Clean Up Dates

Sundays at 10:30am

  • April 9, 2022
  • April 30, 2022
  • May 15, 2022
  • June 12, 2022
  • July 10, 2022
  • August 7, 2022
  • September 11, 2022
  • October 16, 2022
  • November 13, 2022
  • December 11, 2022

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