Chicago 7 Most Endangered Buildings - 2021
Roman Catholic Churches Chicago 7 Most Endangered 7 2021
2021 Chicago 7: Threatened
Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, Worthmann & Steinback, 1915, 1601 W. Leland Avenue. Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers
Central Manufacturing District – Original East District Chicago 7 Most Endangered 2021
2021 Chicago 7: Threatened
Central Manufacturing District - Original East District, Pfannmueller Engineering, Photo Credit: Max Chavez
West Loop Industrial Lofts Chicago 7 Most Endangered 2021
2021 Chicago 7: Threatened
Tyler & Hippach Glass Company Building / William J. Cassidy Tire Building, Henry J. Schlacks, 1902, 344 N. Canal Street. Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers
South Chicago Masonic Temple Chicago 7 Most Endangered 2021
2021 Chicago 7: Threatened
South Chicago Masonic Temple, 2939 E. 91st Street, Clarence Hatzfeld, 1916. Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers
Cornell Store & Flats Chicago 7 Most Endangered 2021
2021 Chicago 7: Threatened
Cornell Store & Flats, 1230-32 E. 75th Street, Walter Burley Griffin, 1908. Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers
Phyllis Wheatley Home Chicago 7 2021
2021 Chicago 7: Threatened
Phyllis Wheatley Club and Home, 5128 S. Michigan Avenue, Frederick B. Townsend, 1896. Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers
The Chicago Lakefront Chicago 7 Most Endangered 2021
2021 Chicago 7: Threatened
The Chicago Lakefront, 26 Miles of Scenic Lakefront Parks & Public Spaces, In Perpetuity Since 1836, by Olmsted & Vaux, Nelson, Simonds, Burnham, Atwood, Bennett & Others. Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers
This year, for a second time since 2019, Preservation Chicago has chosen to “spotlight” the consolidation, deconsecration, combining, closure and sale
of many of our City’s finest religious structures. We are focusing once again on the decisions by the Archdiocese of Chicago to consolidate or close so many parishes and churches.
These immensely beautiful structures were constructed at great cost, and often at significant sacrifice, with pennies, nickels and dimes, by the faithful of the community. They are often the very cornerstones of our communities and neighborhoods, throughout Chicago. In addition to their sheer beauty and providing the necessary space for religious services for worship, they are also community centers, providing everything from food pantries, shelter services, counseling and child care. In days of the past, and even today in some places, a resident may refer to their parish church and community to define the neighborhood in which they live.
When one of these churches close and the parish is disbanded, relocated or merged, the impact is often felt hard and even beyond the traditional borders of a community–by the community at large. It’s not only the loss of an institution, but the loss of human services, often a lifeline to both families and individuals. These closings, consolidations, sale of buildings and sometimes demolitions, are painful in every way, and the loss of these institutions and their sacred spaces, should not occur in such ways and in such magnitude.Our Lady of Lourdes. Photo Credit Eric Allix Rogers
The Archdiocese of Chicago has many complex and complicated issues, many extending back more than 50 years, that are seen elsewhere in the nation and world. However, the rush to closures under the guise of a relatively new program called “Renew my Church,” appears to be anything but renewal, and more akin to the wholesale Urban Renewal programs of the 1950s and 1960s, where much is lost and discarded, without the great sensitivity that many would expect from the owner—the Archdiocese of Chicago. This often results in demolition, as the buildings are often left vacant, rather than mothballed, often without the required and necessary care of their structures, including heating during inclement months, which in turn can lead to more costly repairs by future potential uses or buyers. To further complicate potential reuse efforts, by another congregation of the same faith or another entity, the costs of acquiring these structures is often exorbitantly expensive, as the asking price can often be equated simply to the land value or the community’s conceived land values by a developer.
This is all very disturbing, as these glorious structures, and their ancillary buildings were built by the faithful and given to the Archdiocese of Chicago, to steward, maintain, and staff for use in perpetuity, as sacred places and sites. While some structures may be more modest than others, over the past 50 years, we’ve often witnessed a general and overall wholesale disregard for these holy and consecrated buildings, with many of us in Chicago, descendants of the original builders–the parishioners.All Saints St. Anthony. Photo Credit Eric Allix Rogers
Reasons for these closures given by the Archdiocese, extend from a shortage of priests, to suggestions that parishioner enrollment decline is not what it once was, to costly repairs that were not addressed by the self-insured owner—the Bishops and Archbishops of the Archdiocese of Chicago. Yet, the threshold for consideration of closure is a parish of 800 members, and yet many other religious organizations would be honored to have a fraction, or even half of that number of parishioners/members in their congregations.
The Diocese of Chicago, formed on November 22, 1843 in Chicago, recognized by Pope Leo XIII, under Bishop William J. Quarter, arriving on May 5, 1844 from New York. At that time only one parish existed, St. Mary, organized in 1833 by the Reverend John Mary Irenaeus St. Cyr, said to be the first priest assigned to Chicago. Reverend St. Cyr was said to have established 30 churches and three new parishes, in addition to St. Mary of the Lake University.
The Chicago parishes established during those early years and the decades that followed from 1833 to 1875, within the city limits include Old St. Mary (1833), St. Joseph-Orleans Street, (Old) St. Patrick- DesPlaines Street and (Old) St. Peter (all in 1846). Holy Name Church, later Cathedral (1849), St. Bridget, St. Louis-Polk Street (1850), St. Henry (1851), St. Michael-Cleveland Avenue (1852), St. Francis of Assisi-Twelfth Street/ Roosevelt Road (1853), St. James-Wabash Avenue (1853). Also, Holy Family-Twelfth Street/Roosevelt Road and St. Patrick-Commercial Avenue (1857), St. Columbkille, Immaculate Conception-North Park Avenue and Old St. John (both 1859). St. Wenceslaus-DeKoven Street (1863), St. Boniface and Notre Dame de Chicago (1864), Annunciation, St. Paul (1866) and St. Stanislaus Kostka-Noble Street (1867). Continuing with Nativity of our Lord (1868), St. Anne, St. Jarlath, St. Stephen-Ohio Street, St. Thomas the Apostle (1869). Also, St. John Nepomucene (1871), Sacred Heart-19th Street (1872), St. Anthony of Padua-Wallace Street, Holy Trinity-Noble Street (1873), St. Adalbert-17th Street, St. Margaret of Scotland, Our Lady of Sorrows, St. Pius (all 1874) and All Saints-Wallace Street, St. Procopius, St. Vincent de Paul (1875)Our Lady of Peace. Photo Credit Eric Allix Rogers
In 1980 the Archdiocese of Chicago had 447 parishes, with 278, which may have been perhaps closer to 298 in Chicago and 169 in the suburbs. At the time their records indicated an estimated 2,341,500 parishioners in total within the Chicago Metropolitan Area, according to their documents, making it still the largest Catholic Archdiocese in the nation. In the years since, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles has become the largest Archdiocese in the nation, with Chicago second in the number of congregants.
Current trends have noted a drop in population and attendance across almost all faith communities in recent decades, due to a number of factors, resulting in the painful loss of these houses of worship and the communities of people which are often left behind. While the architecture and preservation community may not be able to address these issues of faith, we can assist in the preservation and reuse of these many buildings, which in themselves are cornerstones and landmarks in our communities across Chicago and elsewhere.
Since its beginnings, the Archdiocese of Chicago has closed approximately 110 churches and parishes in just the city limits of Chicago, until about 2019, with approximately 57 of the 110 churches also demolished over time. In 2020-2021 the program “Renew My Church,” under Cardinal Cupich is responsible for more than 88 churches and parishes are scheduled to consolidate, merge and close, with 25 of the 88 to be sold. This does not include the ancillary structures of convents, rectories or school buildings, which in total are potentially hundreds of properties. The magnitude of these closings have been devastating, and what appeared to be a rock-solid institution, here for the ages—in perpetuity and along with these massive Diocesan organizations stewarding these basilicas of faith, have also fallen sharply. Something must be done to save these sacred structures and several non-profit organizations are challenging these consolidations, closings and the sale of structures in the Vatican. These 19 cases, all from the greater Chicago metropolitan area, are the largest number of Canon Law filings challenging any archdiocese in the United States.St. Matthias. Photo Credit: Ward Miller
The individuals involved in these legal actions are parishioners seeking to save their parishes, their communities and their sacred shrines. Assistance is offered though pro-bono services of a Canon Law attorney and these cases are filed in English, translated into Italian and then once again into Ecclesiastical Latin, where they are debated each third Thursday of the calendar month, before the Vatican Courts. When a verdict is reached it is translated from Latin, to Italian and then to English, where it is then conveyed back to the parishioners. In some instances elsewhere in the United States, Canon Law rules and structures have not been properly followed, or violations have been observed occurring in these closings, resulting in a wide volume of churches and parishes reopened.
Canon Law also suggests that if faith options for the church buildings exist and are aligned with Catholic liturgy, for them to be gifted or first offered to another owner or religious body for the continuation of the faith. Those rules are oftentimes not shared as an option, and adherence to such policies are sometimes further challenged and debated.
Furthermore, protecting religious structures in Chicago has been extremely difficult since the introduction of the religious buildings consent ordinance (verify actual name of ordinance) of 1987, introduced to the Chicago City Council, by former Alderman Burton Natarus. This City Ordinance was invoked to protect the plans of the Fourth Presbyterian Church on North Michigan Avenue from potentially replacing one of its ancillary Gothic-Revival inspired structures with a new tall residential building.
The theory was that a Chicago Landmark Designation of the church and its complex, could potentially prohibit such plans from materializing, which could also be an additional future source of income for the well-to-do church. As time passed, it was clear that the Near North Side neighbors were not pleased with such plans and the tall residential building concept was shelved. In its place on the site of the demolished ancillary Gothic structures has risen a community center structure, which has had tremendous benefits.
Yet the damage of the religious buildings consent ordinance has continued to hamper efforts to give Chicago Landmark Designation to active congregations and their historic religious buildings, without their consent. In almost every instance, the Archdiocese of Chicago has refused designation of its most amazing church properties and has often greatly challenged attempts to Landmark its buildings. This all despite these are viewed as shared community assets, often built and gifted to them by parishioners, yet those assets like the Landmark Buildings of our City are not allowed to be honored, shared and designated and become official Chicago Landmarks, with all of the accolades and protections offered our Landmark buildings in Chicago. This is very unfortunate on so many different levels.Our Lady of Victory. Photo Credit Eric Allix Rogers
Preservation Chicago has been working to preserve many of Chicago’s historic buildings since our founding, twenty years ago. This preservation advocacy work has extended to religious buildings, churches, synagogues and houses of worship since our early years.
Preservation efforts and campaigns include the Landmarking of the former St. Clara-St. Cyril/St. Gelasius, now known as The Shrine of Christ the King, and the Minnekirken Chicago—The Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church on Logan Square. Also, advocacy efforts to preserve St. James Roman Catholic Church on South Wabash Avenue (demolished), Anshe Keneseth Israel on West Douglas Boulevard (demolished), Stone Temple Baptist Church, originally known as the First Romanian Synagogue and the site of many visits by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., which is now a Landmark, The Episcopal Church of the Epiphany, the Landmark building now to be reopened as the Epiphany Center for the Arts. The list also continues to include Agudas Achim North Shore Congregation Synagogue (converted to residential), St. Peter Episcopal Church on Belmont Avenue, the Church of the Advent on Logan Boulevard (converted to residential), which is also a Designated Chicago Landmark. Efforts to save, preserve and Landmark St. Adalbert in Pilsen, All Saints-St. Anthony in Bridgeport, St. Michael the Archangel in South Shore-“The Bush ” and 17 others have been ongoing. These are just several of the religious structures that have been part of our advocacy efforts, with many more in which we have provided supporting testimony towards a Chicago Landmark Designation.
We want to encourage the Archdiocese of Chicago to consider inviting other Religious Orders to Chicago, as was done under the direction of Cardinal Francis George, OMI (1937-2015), in the past, to occupy and staff many of these remarkable and sacred structures, when the Archdiocese can no longer support them. Many of these buildings can be retained and reused as chapels, monasteries, places of contemplation, retreat houses and sites, and a retreat from a visitor’s hectic traverses of the day.
We at Preservation Chicago are also requesting that the 1987 religious buildings consent ordinance be overturned, as for 34 years, all other buildings and structures in the City of Chicago can be considered for Chicago Landmark Designation without the consent of the owner. Yet this special provision and ordinance applies unfairly to buildings in which religious services are conducted, often creating an unbalanced playing field. This ordinance hamstrings many potential Chicago Landmark Designations, of some of the City’s finest buildings, some constructed by the same world-famous architects of our downtown Landmarks.St. George. Photo Credit: Ward Miller
We are also of the opinion that since many of these structures were gifted to organizations like the Archdiocese of Chicago, by the many faithful, that they should not vigorously challenge such efforts, but share them with the community and work with parishioners and the community to determine a path to preserving these sacred places and buildings.
Additionally, if it is determined that a church or house of worship can no longer function in such a capacity by all stakeholders and the City, plans should be considered to encourage cultural reuses for these most sacred structures. Such reuse efforts may include a reuse as concert venues, music centers, cultural centers for the community and other such respectful uses.
After all, many of these religious structures, and in this particular case, Roman Catholic Churches are often cornerstones and visual gateways, which are so associated with our communities across Chicago. They are worth the effort and robust conversations to find alternative owners and potential and creative reuses for these magnificent structures, which were built for the ages and designed to inspire all who gaze upon them in perpetuity.
The following Roman Catholic Churches are to be consolidated, closed or sold and are of great concern to us at Preservation Chicago and to the larger communities of our City.St. Matthias. Photo Credit: Ward Miller
St. George Church (closed 2020)
Architect: William J. Brinkman, 1903
9546 S. Ewing Avenue, East Side, Community Area 52, 10th Ward
CHRS status: Orange-Rated
St. George Church was established in 1903 to serve Slovenian immigrants who settled near the steel mills in South Chicago. This national parish was founded within the territorial parish of St. Patrick at 95th Street and Commercial Avenue.
The origins of the St. George national parish were found in the St. Florian Benevolent Society, organized in 1893. After a short affiliation with the Slovak Fraternal Union, the group joined the Grand Carniolian Slovenian Catholic Union of America in 1894. Rev. John Plevnik, the pastor of a Slovenian parish in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, celebrated Mass for the small South Chicago Slovenian congregation for a time in a German Catholic church at 91st and Exchange. He also encouraged them to form a national parish. The group bought land on 95th Street between Avenues M and N, and had secured the services of a Slovenian priest who began to work with the St. George parish in May 1903.
Initial plans to build a small wooden church were revised when the parishioners acquired a new site at the northwest corner of 96th and Ewing Avenue. With the help of Croatian Catholics who were among the large numbers of Southern Slavs settling in the neighborhood, the large brick church of St. George was constructed in Gothic style with a prominent bell tower. Ground was broken at the end of June 1903, the cornerstone was laid at the start of August, and the first Mass was celebrated in the new church on December 6, 1903.
In January 1904, the church bells were blessed. They had been a “gift of the single men” of the parish. In June 1904, Auxiliary Bishop Peter J. Muldoon dedicated the church. In 1906, Andrew Carnegie made a “sizeable donation toward the purchase of the church organ.”
By 1911, the parish debt was reduced by $8,000. The following year, the membership of the church decreased when the Croatians decided to form their own national parish west of the Calumet River. After several changes of the pastorate, beginning in 1922, St. George parish was staffed by the Slovenian Franciscan Fathers from Lemont, Illinois. In the 1920s, the parish hall was enlarged, the Slovene artist John Gosar was commissioned to redecorate the church interior, and later, stained glass windows were installed in the church. From the end of the 1930s, worshipers other than Slovenians were encouraged to participate in parish life at St. George.
Parish debt was liquidated in 1943 and shortly thereafter, a new fundraising campaign began for construction of a parish school and community center. The entire amount was raised within seven years. Construction of the community center began in 1949 and of the school in the following year. The school opened for the academic year in 1951. A new rectory was built in 1963.
Decades before the 75th anniversary celebration of St. George parish in 1978, the parish was no longer exclusively Slovenian. By the 1970s, Masses were no longer celebrated in Slovenian. The parish had become ethnically diverse, serving a congregation that included a large number of Italians, among others. Despite its welcome of worshipers of all backgrounds, St. George Church was closed by the Chicago Archdiocese in 2020. It was one of four South Chicago parishes that were combined with only two churches, Annunciata and St. Kevin, remaining open.
St. Bride Church (closed 2020)
Architect: Unknown, 1908-09
7801 S. Coles Avenue, South Shore (Windsor Park), Community Area 43, 7th Ward
CHRS status: not listed
St. Bride Church, built in a French Gothic style, was established in 1893 as a mission of St. Kevin Church at 105th and Torrence Avenue to serve 45 families who lived north of 87th Street, in the neighborhoods of South Shore, Windsor Park, and Cheltenham.
At the time of St. Bride’s organization, South Shore was sparsely settled. However, it was south of Jackson Park, the site of the 1893 Columbian Exposition, and north of the steel mills in South Chicago. The area was linked to downtown Chicago by the Illinois Central railroad. The original church building was a single-story brick edifice built at a cost of $3,000, which was dedicated on August 6, 1893. St. Bride remained a mission until 1900. That year, Rev. Timothy D. O’Sullivan, who had established the mission, resigned his pastorate at St. Kevin’s, and became pastor of St. Bride. Two years later, the Carmelite Fathers from Mount Carmel High School (then known as St. Cyril College) volunteered their assistance at St. Bride’s.
In 1907, the parishioners voted to build a new church, and in September ground was broken at the southeast corner of 78th Street and Coles Avenue. The cornerstone was laid on June 14, 1908. On June 6, 1909, the new St. Bride Church, with a seating capacity of 600, was dedicated by Archbishop James E. Quigley. The parish roster then listed 300 families.
The old mission church was remodeled into a school, which opened in September 1909. The St. Bride School was the first Catholic grammar school in South Shore. The following year, Rev. O’Sullivan died and was succeeded as pastor by Rev. William J. Lynch, who began construction of a new school. In 1911, a new school opened with a capacity of 400 students.
During the 1920s, Father Lynch led a program of expansion:
- After remodeling a three-story building into a convent in 1920, a rectory at 7811 S. Coles was completed in 1925, on the site of the original St. Bride Church.
- In 1929, more classrooms were added to accommodate the increasing number of Catholic children who lived in the area.
After Fr. Lynch died in 1933, the following pastors served St. Bride during a period of
continuing growth. The post-World War II years into the 1960s saw construction of a number of high rise apartment buildings along the lakefront. Many of the Catholic residents who moved into these buildings became members of St. Bride parish.
For several decades, South Shore was a largely Catholic and Jewish neighborhood. However, the demographics changed beginning in the late 1960s when South Shore became a majority Black neighborhood. New and old parishioners celebrated the 75th anniversary of St. Bride Church in December 1968. During the 1970s, ties were strengthened between the new Black and Haitian parishioners and the older parishioners of Irish and German descent. By 2005, student enrollment had declined to such an extent that St. Bride School closed its doors in June, with the graduation of its 96th class.
In 2020, all four of the South Shore parishes, including St. Bride, were merged by the Chicago Archdiocese into one newly created parish, Our Lady and Ss. Bride and Philip Neri. On July 1, 2020, St. Bride Church was closed. Our Lady of Peace and Our Lady Gate of Heaven were also closed. St. Philip Neri Church is now the surviving Catholic church in South Shore.
St. Michael Archangel Catholic Church (to be consolidated)
Architect: William J. Brinkmann, 1909
8237 S. South Shore Drive
South Chicago, Community Area 46, 7th Ward
St Michael’s was founded in 1892 to serve Polish immigrants who flocked to America’s shores in search of work to build a better future for themselves and for their children. For a century or more the faith community formed from these immigrants expanded to include Croatians, Slovaks, and later Mexican and Mexican Americans, Nigerians, African Americans, Asian Americans, Haitians, and Filipinos who have worshipped together within this soaring, highly ornamented Gothic church, resembling a grand cathedral.
The present St. Michael’s is the third church building constructed to serve the people of this area, having been completed in 1909 under the pastorate of Bishop Paul Rhode. Bishop Rhode was the first Polish American to be consecrated auxiliary bishop of Chicago. Bishop Rhode later became the Bishop of Green Bay, Wisconsin.
The church’s architecture and expansive interior is Gothic in style. It features two soaring steeples that rise over the South Side of Chicago, which can be seen towering over the community, truly “the cathedral of South Chicago.” The architect was William J. Brinkmann.
The main altar reredos and two side altars are constructed of butternut and bird’s eye maple wood. The central statue of St. Michael, the two incensing angels and the statues on the side altars were sculpted and painted by hand. A beautiful and rare communion rail is carved in oak with a white marble top. The interior of the church can seat approximately 1,100 people. This is truly a landmark worthy of saving and a gateway to South Chicago.
Of interest to lovers of music is the grand piano which belonged to famed composer Ignace Jan Paderewski.
A shrine to Our Lady of Czestochowa, the National Patron of the people of Poland, is located in the sanctuary. The shrine was constructed in Poland in the early 1960s.
The Magnificent stained-glass windows were made by F. X. Zettler of Munich, Germany. Of special note are the two transept windows on the east and west sides of the church. These windows have been considered by some in the parish to be perhaps the largest most beautiful stained-glass windows in the Archdiocese of Chicago. The window on the east side of the church depicts the Pentecost event — the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Virgin Mary and the Apostles. The window on the west side of the church gives imagery to the vision of Saint Michael the Archangel at the Last Judgment.
Among other churches in Chicago which claim to house relics, St. Michael’s enshrines a relic said to be of St. Cyprian, Bishop and martyr.
Our Lady of Victory
Architect Herman J. Gaul, 1910-1911, E. Brielmaier and Sons, 1927, Meyer and Cook, 1954
5200-5240 W. Agatite Avenue
Jefferson Park, Ward 38, Community Area 15
Our Lady of Victory has been serving the Jefferson Park community since 1909, with its church building dedicated in 1911. During the church’s formation, the community was largely composed of Irish, German, and Polish immigrant families.
The establishment of Our Lady of Victory and the construction of the new church was a turning point for the Catholic community on the Northwest Side. This seminal event encouraged the settlement of an influx of Catholics from denser parts of the city. In the following years, thousands of Catholics moved to the far Northwest Side to begin a new era; an era in which the community was to solidify itself as a Catholic American melting pot, a part of the broader fabric of Chicago.
Despite a solid congregation and no debt against the church, the Archdiocese announced in December 2020 that the church would be closed.
The cornerstone for Our Lady of Victory was laid on May 22, 1910.This three-story structure was dedicated on May 28, 1911, by Archbishop James E. Quigley. The architect for this new church was Herman J. Gaul. Born in Germany around 1870, Gaul apprenticed under Louis Sullivan in the 1890s and joined the Illinois Society of Architects in 1898.
Between the building of the church in 1910 and 1925, the city’s population had increased by 1 million, with the bulk of that population moving to the newly established “Bungalow Belt” in the more outlying neighborhoods in the city. Our Lady of Victory had a full school and enough parishioners to warrant expansion.
To this end, in 1927, plans for a new convent, church and rectory were created by the architectural firm of E. Brielmaier & Sons, from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The firm designed the convent and rectory as symmetric, classical style buildings that would abut each side of the new church. These buildings included two open courtyards and a grotto, harmonious with their placid surroundings in the quiet but growing neighborhood.
In the early 1950s, the firm of Meyer and Cook was commissioned to design the upper church of Our Lady of Victory. At a cost of over $1 Million (well over $10 Million in 2021 dollars), the magnificent structure was completed in 1954 and opened for services on April 18 (Easter Sunday). The firm designed the upper church in the Spanish/Mission Revival style, an extremely rare style for Chicago and one of a few of its kind.
By 1950, Our Lady of Victory parish numbered 2,500 families with approximately 1,100 children enrolled in the school. A new school addition had been completed in 1949, and soon work was to begin on the upper church, that would sit atop the current church that was on a lower level. The firm of Meyer and Cook designed elegant and unique buildings throughout the Chicago area, including the Chicago Landmark Laramie State Bank Building.
The church was designed by multiple significant Chicago/regional architects in three different time frames. Its complex of structures housed a unique part of the fabric of Catholic Chicago, initiating an era of blended English-speaking ethnicities. It is uniquely located on a side street in a residential district; the steeple is a landmark identifying marker for the community and towers over the surrounding blocks.
The strong immigrant community has built and stewarded this church through more than a century of growth and change on the Northwest Side of Chicago. Their spiritual home, the hub of their community, is at risk of being closed and potentially lost to demolition or substantial alteration.
This extraordinary complex of buildings could be considered for a reuse by another institution or religious organization, and it also could be used as a residential facility. The community needs permanent, affordable housing, and its proximity to the second largest transit center in Chicago makes it an ideal location. In addition to two large church facilities, the complex includes living quarters, a chapel, classrooms, and multiple hall facilities that could be used for events and celebrations. Additionally, the large parking lot could be used as further rental income to maintain the complex and/or partially used to build a complementary income-driving facility.
All Saints – St. Anthony Catholic Church (to be closed)
Architect: Henry J. Schlacks, 1913
518 W. 28th Place, Bridgeport, Community Area 60, 11th Ward
Romanesque or “Norman” in style, All Saints – St. Anthony Catholic Church is one of the magnificent churches of the Bridgeport Community with its soaring towers and amazing detailed brickwork and mosaics. Immense in scale, the structure is a landmark in the community and was designed by Henry Schlacks, one of Chicago’s most noted architects. St. Anthony of Padua was consolidated with All Saints in 1968 and renamed at that time.
A communication of All Saints – St. Anthony Parish recently announced that St. Therese Chinese Mission and St. Barbara Parish will unite into one parish and one parish school operating out of the existing campuses on Alexander and Throop streets. St. Mary of Perpetual Help and All Saints – St. Anthony Parish will unite to form one parish operating out of the current St. Mary campus. The communication stated, “The existing property at AS-SA will be closed no later than June 2020.”
The earlier message read: “The faith communities of St. Jerome Croatian and Santa Lucia-Maria Incoronata will unite to form a new parish. St. Jerome will serve as the active worship site, and Santa Lucia – Santa Maria Incoronata Church will close no later than June of 2020. The name of the new parish will be determined by the combined parish communities within the next year.”
In addition, there was this announcement: “Nativity of Our Lord and St. Gabriel will be united to form one new parish, with both churches open as worship sites. The name of the new parish will be determined by the combined parish communities within the next year.”
The decision maker in such developments was indicated by this message: “Cardinal Cupich has requested additional time for further discussion and consultation regarding the parishes of All Saints – St. Anthony, St. Barbara, St. Mary of Perpetual Help and St. Therese Chinese and the Archdiocesan Center for Chinese Apostolates. Therefore, a decision regarding these parishes will be delayed until at least mid-January.”
As mentioned previously, the decision regarding All Saints – St. Anthony Parish has been made and communicated as of February 2019. More detailed information on the parish has been made by Father Peter in a bulletin article.
As far as schools are concerned, a segment in the church communications made on the Internet by the All Saints – St. Anthony Church came under the ironic title: “Renew My Church: BCC Grouping Update for schools: St. Jerome School will serve as the parish school. Santa Lucia School will close effective June 30, 2019. Bridgeport Catholic Academy and St. Gabriel School will unite as one school with two campuses to serve the new parish formed by Nativity of Our Lord and St. Gabriel. Each campus will be led by its own principal reporting to the new pastor of the new, unified parish. St. Therese Chinese School will assume responsibility of St. Barbara School, retaining campuses at both school properties under the leadership of St. Therese school and name.” This new responsibility was not sought by the St. Therese Chinese parish which already was achieving a union of Chinese and Italian Catholics, as well as others. As to the unwelcome announcement by the Archdiocese which has been relayed on the Internet by the All Saints – St. Anthony Parish, the following was added in the initial “Renew My Church” message: “School leadership structure will consist of one principal with two administrators, one at each site. The school will be led by the current St. Therese Chinese school principal. The current St. Barbara principal will serve as an administrator at St. Barbara campus.”
Holy Cross Church (consolidated 2020)
Architect: Joseph Molitor, 1913-15
1740 W. 46th Street, Back of the Yards, Community Area 61, 15th Ward
CHRS status: Orange Rated
The majestic twin towers of Holy Cross Church, topped by shining copper-clad cupolas, have been a landmark for the Back of the Yards community on Chicago’s Southwest Side for more than a century. In 1904, Holy Cross parish was established as a national parish to serve Lithuanian immigrants who settled near the Union Stock Yards. Within 10 years, construction began on this grand baroque style church building.
In the 1890s, there were swamps and ponds in the area, known as “Town of Lake,” where the church was later built. Lithuanians began to settle there, and in 1902, the St. Vincent Ferrer Lithuanian Benevolent Society started organizing efforts to create a parish. The society rented a building on Hermitage Avenue to use as a school and it secured the services of nuns from St. George parish in Bridgeport to teach catechism to the Lithuanian children.
In February 1904, the Benevolent Society purchased land to build a temporary combination church-school structure. The cornerstone was laid in December of that year. Before construction was completed, parish Masses were conducted in the nearby St. Rose of Lima Church. The first Holy Cross Church was ready for use in May 1905, and the school in the same building opened that fall. In 1909, a rectory was built.
The parish grew so quickly that work on a larger church began in 1913. The cornerstone of the massive church designed by Joseph Molitor was laid that year by Archbishop Quigley; construction costs were estimated to be $200,000. The church’s facade features a portico with eight Corinthian columns supporting a frieze and pediment. A Latin inscription on the frieze translates, “In the Holy Cross is the life of the world.” Three niches above the pediment contain sculptures of Christ, St. Isidore, and St. George. The soaring towers are “rich in balustrades, arches, finials, pilasters, ornamental copper work, and cupolas.” *
The vast interior “features a lofty, expansive dome, admired by the experts as an architectural marvel.” The vaulted ceiling, supported by marble columns, is lined by more than 2,000 electric lights, each within a rosette. Solid oak pews provide seating for 1,400. There is a richly ornamented wooden altar, numerous statues and paintings, and a double choir loft with a huge pipe organ.
Stained glass windows from the Chicago firm of Arthur Michaudel were installed in 1943-44.
In addition to large rose windows in the transept and nave windows depicting scenes from the life of Christ, smaller windows feature depictions of apostles and saints. Ornate stations of the cross were created by renowned painter Thaddeus von Zukotynski. Four paintings on Lithuanian and American historical themes by Lithuanian artist Adolfas Valeska were added in the early 1950s.
The parish continued to grow in membership, remodeling the previous combination church-school building in 1919 to provide more classrooms. In the 1940s, parish debt of more than $100,000 was liquidated; the church, school, and rectory were remodeled; and a new convent was built. In 1962, a new school building was completed.
Despite the introduction of English in the 1930s, the Lithuanian language remained predominant for decades. An influx of Lithuanian refugees in the post-World War II years into the 1950s further strengthened the Lithuanian character of the parish. Even as parishioners moved out of the Back of the Yards neighborhood, they continued to support the church and to return on major feasts and for special celebrations. A Lithuanian choir continued to sing at Masses in the years leading up to the 75th anniversary of Holy Cross parish, and Lithuanian parish organizations continued their activities. Yet, the parish welcomed parishioners of various national backgrounds. As the neighborhood became predominantly Spanish-speaking, a new group of parishioners found a home at Holy Cross. In 1981, Holy Cross parish was merged with Immaculate Heart of Mary parish, to serve the growing Spanish-speaking population.
Holy Cross Church has served low-income, working class immigrant parishioners for its entire history; it has successfully met the needs of its original Lithuanian base while welcoming diverse national groups and eventually becoming a Mexican-American parish. This should be considered a model parish, providing social services for the poor and the newcomers, while respecting the diverse backgrounds of all; and most importantly, offering Mass in a grand and beautiful sacred space. This majestic church should continue to provide spiritual strength and solace to the underserved and poor.
Yet, the Chicago Archdiocese has consolidated the parishes of Back of the Yards: Holy Cross, previously merged with Immaculate Heart of Mary, St. Joseph, and St. Michael the Archangel.
St. Joseph has been designated the parish church of the newly created entity, which will be named by July 1, 2021. Holy Cross Church will be a “Sunday worship center,” with an uncertain future.
*Chicago Churches and Synagogues, George Lane, Loyola University Press 1981, p. 134
Providence of God Church (consolidated 2016)
Architect: Joseph Molitor/ Leo Strelka, 1914-1927
717 W. 18th Street, Pilsen, Community Area 31, 11th Ward
CHRS status: Green-Rated
The Romanesque-style Providence of God Church, standing in the shadow of downtown Chicago, embodies the history of its immigrant founders. Overcoming numerous difficulties in its early years, parishioners of Providence of God built a magnificent house of worship that later accommodated members of a former parish and welcomed newer immigrants but now faces an uncertain future.
Lithuanians who settled in the port-of-entry neighborhood of Pilsen at the end of the 19th Century sought creation of a Lithuanian parish on the West Side of Chicago. In 1892, they formed the Providence of God Society in St. George parish in Bridgeport. A few years later, as their efforts progressed, one of the reasons cited for a new parish was the high cost of travel to St. George — $0.20. In 1900, a committee had located a site for a new parish, which was established that same year, becoming the second Lithuanian parish in Chicago.
The parish’s early years were marked by contentious relationships with several priests from St. George Church who were designated to lead the new parish. The controversies involved language—one of the priests did not know Lithuanian—and primarily finances and the role of parish trustees. The new parishioners sought to continue traditions from their homeland, whereby the trustees would control the finances and hold the deed for the church, rather than the bishop. Despite those concerns, in 1901, construction began on a combination church-school building on Union Avenue.
In 1910, property on Union was purchased for construction of a larger church. In 1913, Joseph Molitor was hired to design the new church, and the cornerstone was laid the following year. However, due to financial difficulties, only the lower portion of the church was completed. The combination church was remodeled into classrooms to accommodate an increasing enrollment, which had grown to 518 students by 1916. A convent was also built in this period.
By the mid-1920s, parish school enrollment reached 750 students, and there were more than 20 benevolent societies and religious confraternities in the parish. Finances had improved enough to allow work on the church to resume in June 1926. The Romanesque church with twin bell towers was completed according to plans of architect Leo Strelka. The beautiful interior features a barrel-vaulted ceiling, elaborately decorated main and side altars, carved wooden pews, ceiling paintings, and beautiful stained glass windows — including a rose window in the apse. Cardinal Mundelein dedicated the new church on June 12, 1927.
In subsequent decades, parish membership began a slow decline, along with school enrollment. Nonetheless, its 50th anniversary in 1950 was celebrated by Cardinal Stritch.
In 1959, a fire destroyed the nearby Sacred Heart Church at 19th and Peoria, which was a territorial parish. The Archdiocese decided against rebuilding, and instead consolidated Sacred Heart parish into Providence of God in 1960.
In December 1962, the Dan Ryan Expressway opened to traffic, and a heavily traveled elevated section leading into downtown conducts commuters within “a few hundred feet of” church. In the 1960s, Pilsen’s population became predominantly Mexican-American. Providence of God was among the first churches to offer a Spanish-language Mass. By 1975, the parish’s 75th anniversary was celebrated with one Mass in Spanish and one in English and Lithuanian. Both parish membership and school enrollment increased again.
Providence of God is unique as the site of a historic event of significance to Catholics of all backgrounds: the church hosted a visit by Pope John Paul II in October 1979. Although the pope’s stop at Providence of God was brief, it is notable because he was later declared a saint of the Catholic Church. Thus, Providence of God is one of the very few Catholic churches in Chicago that can claim the presence of a saint.
In 2016, the Providence of God parish was consolidated with St. Procopius parish, which is now known as St. Procopius-Providence of God. According to one news report after the consolidation, Masses were to continue at Providence of God, but the pastor of St. Procopius would determine if any other sacraments or services would be held there. Currently, there do not appear to be Masses regularly scheduled there and the church’s future appears uncertain.
Located in east Pilsen, close to a planned major residential development along the river, a great potential exists for Providence of God to regain members and again draw a diverse parishioner base. Unlike the hard-working immigrant poor who have filled Providence of God’s pews for more than a century, the new residents would likely differ in economic status, but would share the same spiritual needs that could be satisfied within this beautiful church. The church is seen literally by thousands of expressway commuters every day and its proximity to downtown can further encourage programming to draw a new population. In addition to these practical concerns, the beauty of the church and its strong connection to a saint make it important to preserve.
Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church (to be consolidated)
Architects: Worthmann & Steinback (1915), Joseph W. McCarthy (1929)
4640 N. Ashland Avenue/1601 W. Leland Avenue Lincoln Square/Ravenswood
Ward 47 (Community Area 03) CHRS Orange Rated
Located in Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood, Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church has a very interesting history involving several changes in location within the same intersection of Ashland and Leland Avenues. On October 8, 1892, Rev. Peter J. Muldoon, then Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Chicago, preached the sermon at the first Mass in the original frame church building located on the southwest corner of Ashland and Leland Avenues. In 1903, the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary founded a parish grade school which welcomed 340 pupils in its inaugural year. Described as one of the most modern schools in the city, thousands of students received an excellent Catholic education at the school before it closed in 2004. The predominantly Irish parish continued to grow, and so did the need for a larger church. The original church was demolished, and Father Francis N. Perry commissioned prolific church architects Worthmann & Steinback to build a new church across the street on the southeast corner of Ashland and Leland Avenues. The church by Worthmann & Steinbeck was modeled in the Spanish Renaissance-style architecture to resemble a church in Valladolid, Spain. Unfortunately, Father Perry did not live long enough to see the edifice completed. He died January 29, 1914. Rev. James M. Scanlan began his tenure as pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Church and the first Mass was celebrated in the new church on Christmas Day 1915. It was dedicated on May 21, 1916 by Archbishop George W. Mundelein.
After WWI, the Ravenswood neighborhood experienced an influx of residents, and parish membership increased rapidly. In 1929, the City of Chicago decided to widen Ashland Avenue. The parish, under the guidance of Father Scanlan, planned a move and expansion of the church across the street to its original location on the southwest corner. The Worthmann & Steinback church building was moved in its entirety across the street, garnering international acclaim for executing one of the greatest engineering feats of the early-twentieth century. The 10,000-ton building was lifted from its foundation by 50 men operating steel jacks and placed on steel rails that acted as rollers. The structure was then pulled across the street with six heavy chains, 72 pulleys and two teams of horses at the rate of “a foot a minute.” The building was then rotated 90 degrees to its present position and cut in two so that a 30-foot section could be added to accommodate up to 300 additional parishioners. Joseph W. Mc Carthy, another notable ecclesiastical architect, was hired to design the new expanded interior of the church. Our Lady of Lourdes has a cruciform plan with a large masonry dome above the crossing of the nave and transepts. There are now six bays in the nave with large stained glass windows at the ground level and pairs of smaller windows in the clerestory. The Leland Avenue elevation has a broad Spanish-style entranceway embellished by a beautiful ornamental iron screen. The entrance is flanked by square brick towers with cupolas and red tile domes.
Father Scanlan served as pastor until his death in 1934. He was succeeded by Rev. John P. Campbell. Father Campbell oversaw an extensive renovation of Our Lady of Lordes School, construction of a new convent, and directed the renovation of Our Lady of Lourdes grotto to make it a faithful replica of the grotto in Lourdes, France. In 1992 the church grotto was made a perpetual adoration site and remains the area’s only chapel open 24/7 for worship. After serving the people of Our Lady of Lourdes parish for 29 years, Msgr. Campbell died in 1963. Rev. Thomas J. Goldrick was named fourth pastor of the North Side parish. On October 7, 1979, parishioners gathered for a special Mass which celebrated the 50th anniversary of the rededication of the church after it was moved across Ashland Avenue. Our Lady of Lourdes parish went on to serve over 1,500 families of nearly 20 different ethnic backgrounds who live in the area, and it has Spanish and English Mass on its Sunday schedule.
The fate of the 127-year-old Our Lady of Lourdes church and cherished grotto has been called into question as the Archdiocese of Chicago has announced its latest round of consolidations. Our Lady of Lourdes will be merged with St. Mary of the Lake at 4220 N. Sheridan Road. St. Mary of the Lake, which was on Preservation Chicago’s Endangered Church watch list in 2019, will serve as the main campus for the combined parish to be named St. Mary of the Lake and Our Lady of Lourdes Parish. Our Lady of the Lourdes’ long vacant school building will be listed for sale by the Archdiocese and the future of the church is to be reviewed on an annual basis giving consideration to “supporting the pastoral presence and importance of the Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto, while also balancing what is financially sustainable,” the Archdiocese said in a statement.
Our Lady of Lourdes is an orange-rated building in the Chicago Historic Resources Survey. It was designed by notable architects Worthmann & Steinbeck, its interior expansion in 1929 was designed by another notable ecclesiastical architect Joseph W. McCarthy. The perpetual adoration grotto, that is housed within Our Lady of Lourdes, has become an important place to many Catholics in the Ravenswood community where they can come to worship at all hours of the day. The architectural and historical importance of Our Lady of Lourdes and the allegiance that worshipping Catholics in this Chicago neighborhood have to the church support allowing Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church to remain an asset to the Ravenswood and larger Lakeview community.
Corpus Christi Church
Architect: Joseph W. McCarthy (1915)
4900 S. Martin Luther King Drive
Grand Boulevard, Ward 3, Community Area 38
CHRS Rating: Orange
Corpus Christi Parish, dedicated in 1915, is one of the grandest designs by Chicago church architect Joseph W. McCarthy. The church is noted for its soaring coffered ceiling, rich marble work, and Renaissance ornamentation.
Corpus Christi, Latin words for the Body of Christ, refers to the sacred bread which Jesus gave to his followers at the Last Supper. The artwork throughout this church portrays scenes related to the history of this sacrament. The painting above the main altar is a mosaic replica of Leonardo di Vinci’s painting of the Last Supper in Milan.
Corpus Christi is cruciform in plan with a semicircular apse containing a white marble altar. The church has a magnificent coffered ceiling with 650 octagonal plaster panels decorated in white and gold. The worship space in this church is bright and open. Brilliant colored stained glass windows, designed in Germany by F. X. Zettler, depict the original church members with Pope Pius X. An adjacent cloister forms a lovely garden for parishioners. A 1932 New World Article called the church “an object of wonderment” and “one of the finest churches in Chicago.”
In 1914, ground was broken at the southwest corner of 49th Street and Grand Boulevard (now Martin Luther King Drive) for the present church which was opened for Mass on Christmas Day 1915. This magnificent edifice and the adjoining rectory at 4920 Grand Boulevard were designed in an Italian Renaissance style.
In the 1920s, the Grand Boulevard area began to change racially, from a predominately Irish-American neighborhood to a Black community. By 1928, less than 100 persons attended Corpus Christi Church on Sundays and only 28 children were enrolled in the school. As a result, the pastor resigned, and the parish and the school were closed in 1929.
In 1929, Cardinal Mundelein entrusted the parish to the Franciscan Fathers, who have been in charge ever since. Under the Franciscan Fathers, Corpus Christi became a retreat center. When the retreat center failed, Cardinal Mundelein granted the Franciscan Fathers permission to minister to the needs of the Black community. Although a majority of the Blacks who lived in Chicago in the 1930s were concentrated in the South Side’s “Black Belt,” only a small percentage were Catholic. The Franciscan Fathers reopened the church for Black people in 1932. The Corpus Christi parish flourished once again and became an important center of Black Catholicism in Chicago.
On September 11, 1945, the Franciscan Fathers opened Corpus Christi high school – the second Black Catholic high school in Chicago – in the former Sinai Temple at 4622 South Parkway. The coeducational school was staffed by the Franciscan Sisters of the Holy Family and by Franciscan Fathers in residence at the parish. In 1962, Corpus Christi high school was consolidated with the new Hales Franciscan high school which opened at 4930 S. Cottage Grove Avenue.
In June of 1975, one of the plaster panels fell from the coffered ceiling. The whole ceiling was found to be in danger of falling because the sisel which held the panels up was rotting. The church was declared unsafe and was closed. However, the people of the parish wanted their church to open again. Under the direction of architect Paul Straka, each of the 650 plaster coffers was rehung with wire, the church was renovated, and eventually reopened for the 75th anniversary of the parish.
Today, the life of the Corpus Christi parish centers around its liturgical celebrations which are prepared by a liturgy committee. The parish also sponsors bible study, discussion groups, pre-sacrament instruction classes for children and parents, and a nine-month Catechumenate program. The Christian life is lived through involvement in the social needs of the community, parishioners distribute food and clothing to the needy, participate in programs for better housing, and work for police reform programs.
After serving the Grand Boulevard community for more than a century, the fate of this distinguished building is uncertain. The Archdiocese has determined that Corpus Christi will be consolidated with four other parishes, and that one of those parishes will be the main worship site. The beautiful structure, much like other former churches, may be in danger of demolition, which would result in the loss of a historic building and an important center of support for the local community.
It should continue to serve this traditionally disinvested community as an anchor and a much-needed resource and social services center. Preservation Chicago encourages the Archdiocese and Corpus Christi to repurpose the church in partnership with community representatives, nearby institutions, elected officials and the City of Chicago. Such an impressive space with auditorium seating could provide a much-needed gathering and meeting space for concerts, lectures and other events as well as a center for social services.
We also encourage this remarkable building to be considered for official Chicago Landmark designation as the building would clearly meet the criteria for designation and would fulfill long-standing conversations in the community and with public officials for such a designation.
St. Matthias Catholic Church (to be consolidated)
Architect: Hermann J. Gaul, 1915-16
2310 W. Ainslie Street
Lincoln Square, Ward 40, Community Area 03 Uptown
CHRS: Not Listed
St. Matthias Catholic Church was organized on August 1, 1887 by the Rev. Matthias Erz to serve German Catholics who lived in Bowmanville, a farming community in the Town of Lakeview. This is now the Lincoln Square neighborhood on the North Side of Chicago.
Father Erz oversaw the construction of a frame church and school building on Ainslie Street which continued to serve an exclusively German parish for decades. Following Father Erz’s death in 1899, the Rev. Christian A. Danz was named pastor of St. Matthias. Rev. Danz was also involved with the organization of St. Benedict parish at Irving Park Boulevard and Leavitt Street. After Father Danz stepped down as pastor of St. Matthias, he was replaced by Rev. Francis Sixt who went on to build a new rectory at 2306 W. Ainslie Street.
Father Sixt died in 1910, and was replaced by Rev. Dennis M. Thiele. During Father Thiele’s long tenure, the majority of what is presently the St. Matthias complex was built with the cornerstone of the church at the corner of Ainslie Street and Claremont Avenue being laid on May 2, 1915. Designed by well-known German architect Hermann J. Gaul, with its impressive red brick Romanesque edifice, St. Matthias held its first mass on Christmas Day 1915 and was dedicated by Archbishop George W. Mundelein on May 28th 1916.
For the past 105 years, Sunday Masses have been celebrated at St. Matthias. Tens of thousands of Catholics in the Lincoln Square neighborhood have received the sacraments there, and over 100 graduating classes of St. Matthias School have had their commencement ceremony in the grand cathedral. St. Matthias parish serves over 1,000 members today with the parish boundaries being Peterson Avenue to the north, Montrose Avenue to the south, the north branch of the Chicago River to the west and the Chicago and North Western railroad tracks at Ravenswood Avenue to the east.
In November 2019, as a part of the Archdiocese’s “Renew My Church” program, plans to close St. Matthias were announced. St. Matthias was selected for consolidation with Queen of Angels at 2330 W. Sunnyside Avenue in Ravenswood and closure because of a $4.6 million debt that had accrued and a shrinking number of parishioners. Parishioners of St. Matthias have filed a lawsuit within the Church’s legal system stating that they were originally told that St. Matthias would remain open for worship after the consolidation and that the decision to close the church and leave the school open violates the Church’s order for due process. A modest request to delay the consolidation and closing of St. Matthias was presented to the Chicago Archdiocese but was denied by Archbishop Cupich stating that “hierarchical recourse against my decision is sufficient reason to refuse the postponement being sought.”
A nonprofit seeking to keep St. Matthias open was formed, and petition efforts began to keep the church open for Sunday services. More than 3,700 signatures have been collected, and yard signs posted with the message “Keep St. Matthias Church Open” can be seen throughout the Lincoln Square neighborhood. Only contributing to the sting of closing St. Matthias is the $350,000 that was raised by parishioners for necessary renovations and restorations prior to the announcement that St. Matthias would be closing. As far as the “pending canonical litigation,” it could take years to resolve and requires a specialist attorney based out of Rome so it is difficult to assess whether or not this will impact the decision to close St. Matthias Catholic Church.
Preservation Chicago advocates that all Roman Catholic Churches being slated for consolidation and closure remain available to the community for worship. If this is not possible, eligible buildings should be Landmarked before being sold. This would ensure that the historic integrity and the building’s ties to the neighborhood would be protected. Many of the churches being closed by the Archdiocese will be sold to developers looking to build luxury housing. These sacred places were built by the communities that supported them for those communities, and they should be preserved and sustainably reused — ideally for a greater community purpose.
St. Ignatius Church
Architect: Henry Schlacks, 1917
6559 N. Glenwood Avenue
Rogers Park, Ward 49, Community Area 77
CHRS Rating: None
St. Ignatius is located in Rogers Park on the North Side of Chicago. The church, one of the surviving classical gems of Chicago churches, was designed by Henry Schlacks. He is considered by many to be one of the finest of Chicago church architects.
St. Ignatius Church is named after the soldier-saint, founded by the Society of Jesus in the Sixteenth century. Henry Schlacks patterned the church after the Gesù, the mother church of the Jesuit order in Rome. The church is constructed of Bedford stone with a tile roof. A six -tory bell tower stands at the southeast corner of the building. Six columns, each 30-feet high, weighing 13 tons and carved from a single block of stone, support the portico of the church. The classic motif is continued inside where classical columns support the canopy of the baldacchino, are embedded in the walls around the church, and are found in the dome above the altar.
The golden canopy of the baldacchino is modeled after Bernini’s canopy in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Above one of the side altars stands a painting of St. Joseph. The image of St. Joseph with the Christ child in this painting known as “The Light of the World” has been called the most popular religious painting in the world. Four large stained-glass windows on each side of the nave and two huge windows in the transepts help illuminate the interior of the church. St. Ignatius is honored in a series of 10 oil paintings by the Chicago artist Augustine Pall. These paintings are affixed to the ceiling above each of the stained-glass windows.
St. Ignatius Parish was founded in 1907 by the Jesuits and initially was served by a small church. In the early 20th century, the “L” train’s route was expanded from Wilson Avenue to Howard Street which led to a great population boom in the neighborhood. St. Ignatius Parish rapidly outgrew its small original church. In 1915, parishioners voted to build a new, bigger church which was formally dedicated on September 16, 1917.
Throughout the 1920s and 1930s numerous social, sports and entertainment organizations were formed to meet the needs of parishioners. Philanthropy also played a part, with the St. Vincent de Paul Society distributing food, clothes and money to needy Rogers Park community members.
After World War II, St. Ignatius focused on family-oriented activities and education. Sports, theater, youth, and family activities flourished.
The period from the 1960s to the 1980s was a time of great change for the parish. Hispanic parishioners began attending St. Ignatius in significant numbers in the 1960s. A Liturgy Committee, Parish Council and lay ministers began to serve the parish. In the early 1970s, Ignatian Services was founded to provide a wide variety of social services.
In 1994, St. Ignatius Grammar School was consolidated into the Northside Catholic Academy (NCA). Despite the school consolidation, parishioners remained dedicated to the parish and its ministries. The parish expanded programs for youth and teens with the hiring of a youth minister, instituting a children’s liturgy of the word on Sundays, and forming the children’s choir.
In the late 1990s the Jesuits determined they were no longer able to staff the parish. The Archdiocese officially took over in 2000 and two permanent deacons were ordained. In addition, many areas of the church were renovated with the proceeds of several fundraising initiatives.
Today, St. Ignatius is home to over 700 registered families. It is a diverse and multicultural worship environment and community that continues to follow the traditions set forth by its founders with emphasis placed on fellowship, service and charity, as well as support of cultural and educational endeavors.
After serving the Rogers Park community for more than a century, the fate of this distinguished building is uncertain. The Archdiocese has determined that St. Ignatius will cease to be a parish in 2021. Although St. Ignatius has been directed to engage with the Loyola University and the local Jesuit community regarding their interest in developing an outreach center at the St. Ignatius campus, the church will continue to explore all other options to reduce facility operations and capital expenses.
This beautiful structure, much like many other older churches, may be in danger of demolition, which would result in the loss of a historic building and an opportunity for it to continue to serve the community as an anchor and a much-needed resource and cultural center.
Recommendations Preservation Chicago encourages the Archdiocese and St. Ignatius to pursue their discussions with Loyola University and the local Jesuit community to repurpose the church campus and to explore other opportunities to preserve the church in partnership with community representatives, nearby institutions, elected officials and the City of Chicago. Such a universal space with auditorium seating could provide a much-needed space for concerts, lectures and other events, as well as a center for various social and community activities.
We also encourage this remarkable building to be considered for official Chicago Landmark designation as the building clearly meets the criteria for such a designation and would fulfill long-standing conversations in the community and with public officials.
St. Roman Church (closed 2020)
Architect: John F. Schrambeck & Sons/ Sandel & Strong, 1929-30
2311 S. Washtenaw Avenue, Marshall Square, Community Area 30, 24th Ward
CHRS status: not listed
St. Roman Church came into existence to serve a burgeoning Catholic population in Marshall Square just before the Great Depression. St. Roman was established in 1928 to relieve overcrowding at the Polish parish of St. Casimir at Cermak Road and Whipple Street. In September 1928, the first Mass was held in the parish hall of St. Casimir. Marshall Square was so densely populated a neighborhood that not a single tract of vacant land was available for the new parish. Eleven properties at the southeast corner of 23rd Street and Washtenaw Avenue were purchased, and the homes were temporarily rented. The income from the rentals and donations of the early parishioners was supplemented by a gift of $40,000 from the pastor of St. Casimir.
This allowed work to begin on a new combination church and school building by John F.
Schrambeck & Sons in April 1929. The cornerstone for the building was laid in June and the parish school opened in September. Shortly after work on the church began, the stock market crashed on October 29, 1929. Yet St. Roman Church was completed according to plans by the architectural firm of Sandel & Strong, and was dedicated in October 1930 by Auxiliary Bishop Bernard J. Sheil.
The completed church, with a seating capacity of 700, featured a prominent three-tiered bell tower on the corner of 23rd and Washtenaw. Its interior design reflected the Polish heritage of its original parishioners. The entire L-shaped building also contained 16 classrooms and an assembly hall.
Just five years after the church was built, St. Roman parish had a membership of 900 families and a school enrollment of 900 students. By 1950, parish membership had increased to 1,650 families. With continued growth and hard work, St. Roman was clear of debt by 1951. Subsequently, a modern three-story convent was built.
From its thoroughly Polish roots, with population changes during the 1950s, St. Roman
became home to a diverse congregation, termed “a veritable ‘League of Nations’”. The following decade, St. Roman became trilingual in character, with a large influx of Spanish-speaking families joining the Polish- and English-speaking parishioners. Beginning in 1968, Spanish language Masses were offered to accommodate the needs of the new parishioners.
Despite some initial difficulties, the multicultural nature of the parish became a source of unity and stability in the neighborhood. Membership of parish organizations increasingly began to reflect the Spanish-speaking population, and services were offered to those who were undocumented. By its 50th anniversary, St. Roman’s membership was majority Hispanic. The heritage of St. Roman Church is one of beating the odds: built in the first year of the Great Depression in an overcrowded immigrant neighborhood where no land was available, its diversity became a sign of hope and stability. Its history is one of service to multicultural populations at a location near the major commercial area of Little Village. However, in 2020, the Chicago Archdiocese consolidated St. Roman and Assumption parishes into Our Lady of Tepeyac. The Archdiocese then closed St. Roman Church.Download Original PDF
Last year, Preservation Chicago announced the selection of the Central Manufacturing District’s Pershing Road District as part of our Chicago 7 Most Endangered list. This year, the Central Manufacturing District’s Original East District (CMD East) has been selected for inclusion. CMD East was in fact the precursor to the Pershing Road District and served as a first chapter in the story of the development whose financial success ensured the construction of CMD Pershing Road just over a decade later.
The Central Manufacturing District was the nation’s first planned industrial park, a revolutionary design that gathered many of the city’s manufacturing powers together in one localized region. The concept and idea was such a well-executed experiment that it further spurred on Chicago’s industrial might and inspired imitations throughout the nation in the first half of the 20th century. Its significant historical background is further bolstered by the robust architectural heritage found throughout CMD East. Designed in a variation of styles that include Art Deco, Gothic Revival, Prairie School, Classical Revival, and Mid-Century Modern, Central Manufacturing District’s Original East District is unlike any other architectural complex and grouping in Chicago.
CMD East is a crucial and irreplaceable artifact of industrial history and design both in Chicago and the United States. Unfortunately, without designation as a Chicago Landmark District, CMD East is threatened by a combination of demolition and neglect. While recent efforts to help protect the district have increased, those efforts are still insufficient. In an effort to acknowledge the importance of this site and the need for its continued preservation and maintenance, CMD East was listed in 2015 on the National Register of Historic Places with support from Preservation Chicago and our statewide preservation partner, Landmarks Illinois.Central Manufacturing District, Standard Sanitary. Credit: Max Chavez
In 1902, Frederick H. Prince, an owner of the Chicago Junction Railway (CJR), and A.G. Leonard, president of the nearby Union Stock Yards Company, founded what would come to be known as the Central Manufacturing District (CMD). At once a solution to Chicago’s unstoppable industrial expansion as well as a savvy economic move on the part of these two industrial magnates, the CMD East was a radical experiment in city planning.
Before the establishment and construction of CMD East, this area of Chicago was known as the Cabbage Patch, so named for the acres of cabbage fields that dotted the area; to the south were the sprawling Union Stock Yards founded a half-century before the creation of CMD East. Much of the Stock Yards’ success was thanks to the seamless integration of the CJR’s train lines into their facilities. As this partnership between the CJR and the Union Stock Yards became increasingly lucrative, the CJR turned their attention to the nearby fields and the opportunities held within.
Prince, as owner of the CJR, a consolidation of nine railways whose funding in part made the Union Stock Yards a possibility, felt that a redevelopment of these agricultural plots would both protect and increase his share of freight traffic. Such efforts would also create a new district that would attract companies fleeing the densification of downtown Chicago’s industrial and commercial core. With the space provided by this adjacent farmland, Prince saw an opportunity to lure businesses looking for additional square footage and easier shipping made possible by front-door CJR rail lines. He also envisioned waterfront docks along a branch of the Chicago River known as Bubbly Creek that would grant companies direct access to water transportation. This creek and the dangerous working conditions of meatpacking in the Chicago Stockyards were soon made notorious by Upton Sinclair’s exposé The Jungle.
The beginnings of CMD East were supported by $20 million worth of construction and infrastructure upgrades in 1902 on these former farmlands and rundown lumber yards. The district was overlaid upon the city’s existing street grid, while its organization inside its borders was determined by a combination of factors including business functions and needs, traffic patterns, and shipping requirements.
Despite CMD East’s industrial purpose, the visual beauty of the buildings, overall design quality, and detailing were also important factors, as still evident and witnessed today in the many structures located in this complex. Advertising materials created to entice local businesses to CMD East highlighted the overall appearance of the district. Handsomely paved roads, manicured parkways, and elegant lamp posts were featured prominently in this new industrial park, as were the architecture and overall characteristics of the warehouses themselves. CMD East boasted its own Architectural Department office on West 35th Street, which collaborated with business owners on the design of their new properties. The administrators also assembled a team of highly talented architects to bring this new industrial center to life, including A.S. Alschuler, Postle & Mahler, and Samuel Scott Joy. Many of these same architects would later be commissioned to design an addition to the CMD on West Pershing Road, along with smaller nearby CMD spinoffs.
The buildings of CMD East were constructed in a variety of sizes suiting each company’s specific needs. Mostly consisting of pressed brick or concrete, these structures were then adorned with ornate details, often in terra cotta, unlike many typical industrial buildings of that time. These warehouses and offices embodied architectural trends of the 20th century and exhibited trademark features of the Art Deco, Late Gothic Revival, Prairie School, Mid-Century Modern and Classical Revival movements.
CMD East’s attention to aesthetics aside, the district enjoyed great popularity thanks to the innovation and introduction of an all-inclusive offering of services—the first of its kind. Notable among these were unparalleled electric wiring, postal delivery, street cleaning, telegraphic connections, private water lines, preventative fire protections, private centralized banking, and even a social club. Amenities such as these were understandably appealing to smaller manufacturers who would have struggled to facilitate such a wide range of logistics on their own. As a result, this “package deal,” meant to aid manufacturing and factory operations, became one of the biggest motivators to relocating to CMD East.Central Manufacturing District, Standard Sanitary. Credit: Max Chavez
Hundreds of companies have called CMD East home over the past century. Household names like the William Wrigley Company, the Walgreen Company, Standard Sanitary, Spiegel (of catalog and mail order fame), and Westinghouse Electric all operated out of CMD East in its early days. However, as the years passed, CMD East lost little of its appeal and continued to attract a roster of big-name tenants including: Sears Roebuck, Goldblatt’s, Procter & Gamble, Sylvania, the Glidden Company, the Oppenheimer Casing Company, Jewel Food Stores, and the Larkin Soap Company. The demolition of the Larkin Soap Company’s building this year is not the only lamentable architectural loss in that business’s history: the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Larkin Administration Building, which served as the centerpiece of their Buffalo headquarters, was controversially and regrettably demolished in 1950.
CMD East’s expansion forged ahead unaffected by wartime economies or market downturns, continuing to expand and even thrive during the Great Depression and both World Wars. Its unrelenting success led to a proliferation of other industrial offshoots overseen by the Central Manufacturing District: the Pershing Road District; the Crawford Development along Pulaski Road between West Pershing Road and West 47th Street; the Kedzie Development which extends from West 47th to 49th Streets between South Kedzie and South Central Park Avenues; a smaller district from West 47th to 49th Streets between South California Avenue and South Rockwell Street; and the Calumet Industrial District, which ran along the Calumet River between East 103rd and 106th Streets.
By the middle of the 20th century, CMD East experienced considerable turnover with some buildings being razed to make way for new structures and companies. This era of demolition has resulted in the gradual dismantling of many of CMD East’s most impressive buildings. Polish beer manufacturer White Eagle Brewing’s Romanesque-style facilities have been sadly lost, as well as the 192,000 square foot Samuel Scott Joy-designed John Magnus Building on 35th Street, which featured a lofty clock tower rivaling the one currently standing on West Pershing Road. Other impressive warehouses lost over the years include: the stately seven-story O.W. Richardson Company headquarters at West 37th Street and South Racine Avenue; the Starck Piano Company Building at the corner of West Pershing Road and South Ashland Avenue which also flaunted a tower with commanding views; and the Alschuler-designed John Lucas Company Building at the corner of West 37th and South Iron Streets.
By the latter quarter of the century, the Central Manufacturing District had sold off all of its holdings in the district. Still, building on the long-lasting success of CMD East allowed the Central Manufacturing District as a land-leasing organization to establish similar industrial parks from nearby Itasca all the way to Phoenix, although none were executed at the level of design or size witnessed in CMD East or its Pershing Road counterpart. The past few decades have seen the loss of many structures in this district by either purposeful demolition or accidental destruction, slowly chipping away at the cohesion found here during its halcyon days.
As these losses persist at a concerning pace, attention has turned back to CMD East and the adjacent Pershing Road corridor with both developments being designated as historic districts on the National Register of Historic Places. While many of the buildings of CMD East face an uncertain future and remain undesignated, the Spiegel Administration Building on West 35th Street has been honored as a Chicago Landmark while also being entered into the National Register of Historic Places. Meanwhile, some of CMD East’s more visible structures have been creatively repurposed and saved. Most notable among these structures is the former Albert Pick & Company Building which was adaptively reused in 2001 as the Bridgeport Art Center, a collection of artist spaces and the home of the Chicago Maritime Museum. Today, CMD East houses a mix of tenants that range from breweries and storage companies to food producers and the largest prop warehouse in the Midwest.Central Manufacturing District, Continental Can, 3859 S. Ashland Photo Credit: Max Chavez
The greatest danger confronting the CMD East is that of rampant demolition unrestricted by any historic protections. Nowhere is this clearer than along the district’s western boundary of South Ashland Avenue, which is marked by multiple vacant parcels where once stood impressive hubs of industry. A 32-acre lot at the corner of South Ashland Avenue and West 35th Street, owned by real estate investment company Avgeris and Associates, has been the site of some of the most widespread demolition in CMD East. These losses include the Wrigley Company’s historic factory and the Larkin Company Building, which housed both the Larkin Soap Company and Jewel Food Stores during its long history.
The demolition of the Wrigley Company’s factory was the final act in a series of missteps that could have been easily prevented by a Chicago Landmark designation. In 2002, the City of Chicago agreed to provide the Wrigley Company $16 million worth of incentives to remain in Chicago, build additional facilities on Goose Island, and keep their historic factory open. However, the city never secured a written promise from Wrigley. Once Wrigley was acquired by Mars Inc. in 2005, it was announced that the factory would be sold. Its demolition began in 2013, a year after being purchased by Avgeris & Associates, with the company claiming that the razing was “safety related.” In the absence of any historic protections, the demolition moved ahead with no ordinances in place to delay it.
Portions of this lot are now the site of a close-to-completion distribution center with Amazon as the proposed new tenant, a decision likely to be met with heavy local disapproval. Other South Side communities have protested the opening of Amazon distribution centers in their neighborhoods for fear that an increase in truck traffic will cause heavy pollution that would impact the health of local residents. Concerns of environmental racism would be greatly justified as this part of Chicago has experienced several environmental justice issues impacting adjacent communities. These recent controversies include, but are not limited to, the noxious fumes emitted by the nearby MAT Asphalt plant as well as the April 2020 demolition of a Crawford Power Plant smokestack that resulted in a toxic dust cloud blanketing an entire Little Village neighborhood.
Since 2003, Avgeris and Associates has also owned a large lot at the corner of South Ashland and West Pershing Road containing two large historic industrial structures—the most notable of the two being the former home of Continental Can Company, a structure boasting Gothic Revival terra cotta and a six-story tower. We are concerned that without protections, these buildings, instead of being wisely reused, will soon meet a similar fate as the Wrigley and Larkin Company buildings.
Multiple CMD East properties are searching for new lessees. While some advertised structures, like the C.S. Davis & Company warehouse on 37th Street, are flexible warehouse or industrial spaces that face fewer threats of interior damage, others are more vulnerable to irreversible changes by new tenants. The currently-for-lease Central Manufacturing District Bank Building on West 35th Street is of particular concern as its historic interior remains in fair condition. Retention of this significant space—the social and financial heart of the CMD and arguably the most ornate interior in the entire development—by both its current owner and its next tenant is of the utmost importance to the integrity of CMD East.
Vacancies and neglect also endanger CMD East’s historic fabric. The Pullman Couch Company Building on South Ashland Avenue was heavily damaged in a devastating 2013 conflagration that smoldered for days, resulting in the eventual demolition of the elegant warehouse. While the blaze’s cause is unknown, the building’s abandonment surely led to and accelerated its eventual demolition. We fear that other vacant buildings within CMD East could meet the same fate if left deserted.
The lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic loom large over CMD East’s future as Chicago enters a second year with the virus. While Chicagoans continue to work from home in considerable numbers, commercial real estate has seen a notable shortage of demand. Our post-pandemic world is expected to offer greater flexibility in allowing people to work remotely. Will this squeeze be felt all over the city? If so, CMD East may be threatened by this lessening of a need for commercial and industrial real estate. It will be necessary to diversify how CMD East’s vast square footage is employed to ensure its continued viability far into the future.
It must be noted that much of the surrounding area is still zoned for industrial use which could complicate future development. Last year, an affordable housing proposal in the Pershing Road District was denied funding by the City of Chicago due to its proximity to the aforementioned MAT Asphalt Plant. That decision is just one example of the many difficulties presented by industrial redevelopment in which we must safely balance adaptive reuse, neighborhood reinvestment, and community health.
CMD East’s historic infrastructure, such as its many railway tracks and brick-paved roads, has vanished over time as the district has evolved—but important fragments still remain. Their erasure poses a severe threat to Chicago’s rich industrial heritage. These features are integral to telling the full story of this district and their thoughtful retention will continue to contribute historical, educational, and aesthetic value to CMD East.Central Manufacturing District Bank. Photo Credit: Max Chavez
The most pressing issue facing CMD East is demolition, a danger that can be countered by designating it a Chicago Landmark District. Although CMD East is indeed listed under the National Register of Historic Places, this honor still leaves it vulnerable to the wrecking ball—a reality made clear by this year’s loss of the Larkin Company Building. Preservation Chicago wholeheartedly supports the protection of the area’s remaining structures through the creation of a CMD East Historic Landmark District. The recent Landmarking of the Spiegel Administration Building is an encouraging sign that Landmark status can and should be extended to the remaining structures of the CMD’s Original East District.
Furthermore, there are numerous buildings that exist within or on the periphery of the official CMD East boundaries outlined by the National Register of Historic Places that we at Preservation Chicago feel are worthy of inclusion in future advocacy efforts. Even if these structures do not fall within the official scope of CMD East’s development, they contribute to the historical and architectural continuity of the district. We would be remiss to ignore these buildings as part of any future Landmark designations as they strengthen the district’s cohesion and paint a fuller picture of CMD East and its environs. (List included below.)
In keeping with the spirit of the Central Manufacturing District’s mission to support smaller businesses and serve the Chicago area, we feel that CMD East offers opportunities to invest in the nearby McKinley Park and Bridgeport communities. Vacant structures could easily be adaptively reused as a myriad of uses including: housing, dining, commercial offices, art and performance studios, and educational spaces.
To further support adaptive reuse developments, the City of Chicago must make it policy to deny demolition permits when future plans have not been approved and financing has not been secured. Since the Chicago Historic Resources Survey overlooks countless historic buildings, policies like these could function as additional roadblocks to demolition so as to avoid the unimpeded loss of our built environment. Demolition as a first option leaves our city scarred by vacant lots, accelerating disinvestment and blight. Instead, requiring clearly defined proposals for what a developer or owner plans to do with a historic property is imperative for the retention of these irreplaceable structures, both in CMD East and across Chicago.
We also support the option of employing architecturally sensitive infill development to densify CMD East and eliminate many of the vacant lots in the area. Replacement developments such as the proposed Amazon distribution center or the ComEd training center next door solve the problem of vacant parcels but detract from the visual and historic fabric of CMD East. Through thoughtful design and community-sensitive uses, we can create additional space for local communities that is still true to the spirit of this revolutionary district. Reuse developments of industrial areas have been shown time and again to be popular destinations for local businesses and communities, both worldwide and here in Chicago. We are confident the same is possible at CMD East.
Additional contributing properties
1200 – 1232 W. 36th Pl. (1951)
926-930 W. 38th Place (1924)
3718 S. Ashland (1925)
3742 S. Ashland (1914)
3752 S. Ashland (1911)
3804 S. Ashland (1909)
3808 S. Ashland (1909)
3810 S. Ashland (1912)
3333 S. Iron (1953)
3545 S. Morgan (1925)
1120 W. Pershing (1945/6)
3800-3802 S. Racine (c. 1969)
Racine Avenue Pumping Station (1939)
3801 W. Sangamon (c. late 1950s)
*1038 W. 35th St—Spiegel Administration Building, already Landmarked
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West Loop Industrial Lofts
Eckhart & Swan Company Mill/ B.A. Eckhart Mill/ ADM Wheat Mill
Architects: Flanders and Zimmerman, William Carbys Zimmerman and John J. Flanders
Address: 1300 West Carroll Avenue
Dates: 1897 with additions in 1910. Grain elevators in 1927 and grain silos in 1948
Style: Chicago Vernacular Mill Construction Factory Loft Building
Neighborhoods: West Loop/Fulton Market District
Tyler & Hippach Glass Company Building / William J. Cassidy Tire Building
Architects: Henry J. Schlacks
Address: Originally at 117–125 N. Clinton Street later moved to 344 N. Canal Street
Style: Chicago School Style, Chicago Commercial Style
Neighborhoods: West Loop/ Wolf Point
Braun & Fitts Butterine Factory / Wrigley Lodge / Salvation Army
Architects: Furst & Rudolph, with Art Deco/Art Moderne Remodeling by Albert C. Fehlow
Address: 509 N. Union Avenue
Dates: 1891, with Art Deco/Art Moderne Remodeling in 1947
Style: Chicago Vernacular Mill Construction, with Art Moderne additions
Neighborhoods: West Loop/ Wolf Point
In the late 19th and early 20th century, Chicago’s Loop central business district was surrounded by a ring of fine-quality industrial buildings. Often these loft buildings were of mill construction, and typically employed masonry construction on its exterior facades, with a heavy timber structure behind. This was later followed by fire-proof reinforced concrete construction methods, to accommodate the heavy loading required by many industrial uses of the era. These structures are often characterized by a brick façade and expansive windows to maximize natural light. Ceiling heights were tall, often ranging from 10 to 14 feet. They are typically low to mid-rise, often between three to seven stories and have a wide footprint.
Ornament in industrial buildings is typically restrained for reasons of economy, but many exhibit a high level of architectural design. Pride of ownership likely contributed to the attractive design. These industrial buildings were typically owned and built by the business owner and as such, the buildings came to represent the company to visitors including customers, vendors, and professionals. Additionally, these buildings served as collateral for business loans to support growth. As a result, many of Chicago’s finest architects were commissioned to design these buildings.
Henry J. Schlacks is best known for designing some of Chicago’s most beautiful Roman Catholic churches. Certainly, there were vast differences between designing religious buildings and an industrial building. When he was hired in 1902 to design a new factory and headquarters for the Tyler & Hippach Glass Company Building, Schlacks applied his architectural brilliance to this very different genre and focused on material, massing, and composition. The results were an impressive building and an outstanding example of the “Chicago School or the Chicago Commercial style.”
The same design elements that were so important to industrial users in the late 19th century, including wide, open floor plans, expansive windows to maximize natural light, tall ceilings, and fireproof construction are many of the same design elements that are important to contemporary residential developers and residents. This helps to explain the success and desirability of many of the Chicago School Industrial buildings that have been converted to condos or apartments.
While many Chicago School Industrial buildings have been successfully converted to residential or office lofts, those that remained industrial have more recently been targeted for demolition and replacement by developers of high-rise residential or office towers. The proximity to the Loop central business district makes the location attractive to developers looking to convert an industrial use to a residential or office use. Additionally, the typical wide footprint covered by a single building and owned by a single entity creates an ideal site for a new high-rise tower which requires a large parking garage on the lower floors.
Chicago School industrial buildings are highly adaptable for residential or office use, but the critical factor that determines whether a developer will choose conversion or demolition is typically the underlying zoning. If the height allowed by the zoning generally matches the existing building, then developers typically find it more economical to adaptively reuse the existing historic building and convert it to residential or office.
However, if there is a zoning mismatch where the underlying zoning allows for a building that is twice, five times, or even 10 times taller than the existing building, this essentially ensures the demolition of the historic building. The potential profits from a 25-story building versus a five-story building are simply overwhelming. Regardless of the quality or significance of the building, even if the historic building were built of solid gold, the zoning mismatch seals the ultimate fate of the structure and condemns it to demolition. The primary method to redirect these powerful market forces into a more preservation-sensitive direction are to adjust zoning to match the historic buildings or in certain extraordinary cases to designate the building as a Chicago Landmark.
Eckhart & Swan Company Wheat Mill
OVERVIEW: Eckhart & Swan Company Wheat Mill
Once a gritty and hard-working meatpacking district, the Fulton Market District has rapidly been transformed into a trendy destination with many new bars, restaurants, residences and offices.The significant reinvestment and rapid development caused the demolition of many of the historic industrial buildings which once dominated this district.
Fortunately, in 2015 approximately 85 historic industrial buildings were protected from demolition or inappropriate modification as they were included as contributing buildings in the Fulton-Randolph Market Landmark District. Within the Landmark District, many of the contributing historic buildings have been or are currently in the process of being renovated or incorporated into new construction in a preservation-sensitive way. The Landmark District has not slowed the transformation, but has helped to redirect and shape it so that the character of the district would not be lost.
Unfortunately, the Fulton-Randolph Market Landmark District covered only approximately 12 blocks of the approximately 50 blocks that comprise the neighborhood. The majority of the historic industrial buildings in the West Loop are beyond the Landmark District boundaries and are therefore unprotected and are at risk for demolition. Not surprisingly, many of the historic buildings close to the Landmark District, but beyond its borders and without protection, have been in the first wave of demolition and replacement.
Recent losses include the Chicago Machinery Building designed by D.H. Burnham & Company in 1910. Formerly located at 1217 W. Washington, it was a three-story commercial and industrial building with an outstanding highly ornamented façade and an elaborately detailed cornice. The white glazed brick contrasted beautifully with the maroon-colored ornament and arched window openings. Despite an intensive preservation advocacy effort, it was demolished in January 2018.
The Hollenbach Building at 808 W. Lake Street was designed by Worthmann & Steinbach for Hollenbach Seed Company in 1912. It was a three-story red brick elegant building with terra cotta ornament and an articulated cornice. Though located only a few hundred feet from the protections of the Fulton-Randolph Market Landmark District, it was demolished in January 2021.
In both cases, the final decision regarding the fate of the historic building rested solely on the whim of the developer. In both cases, the historic facades could have been incorporated into the new construction. In both cases, the developers chose not to bother spending the time, energy or effort to save the historic facades.
HISTORY: Eckhart & Swan Company Wheat Mill
The Eckhart & Swan Company/ B.A. Eckhart Milling /ADM Wheat Mill and Silo complex at 1300 West Carroll Avenue at the west end of the Fulton Market District is an amazing series of buildings which should have been creatively reused for an innovative development. The existing 250,000-square-foot ADM mill facility sits on a 2.2-acre site and includes a series of brick loft buildings ranging from three to six stories tall and a soaring concrete structure with more than a dozen silos. The oldest buildings in the complex were built in 1897 and were designed by William Carbys Zimmerman and John J. Flanders. It was reportedly the largest mill in Illinois at the time it was built.
The grain elevator was designed by M. A. Lang in 1927 and the grain silos were built by Bulley and Andrews in 1948. The complex was in constant operation until it was shuttered by ADM in 2019. It was reported to be Chicago’s last active grain elevator.
Chicago was incorporated as a city in 1837 with a population of approximately 4,000. Within less than 20 years, Chicago had emerged as the grain capital of the world. The explosive growth of the wheat and grain production was made possible by two revolutionary agricultural inventions of the 1830s; John Deere’s steel plow and Cyrus Hall McCormick’s Mechanical Reaper. Chicago was surrounded by a “prairie sea” comprised of very rich and very tough sod. The steel plow allowed midwestern farmers to easily till the tough prairie soil and the McCormick Reaper allowed them to efficiently reap all that they had sowed. By 1854, Chicago emerged as the busiest grain port in the world.
Grain was one of the major industries upon which Chicago was built. It spurred the growth of the railroads and commodities futures trading which are represented by Chicago Union Station and the Chicago Board of Trade building. In fact, the 31-foot-tall statue which stands atop the Art Deco Chicago Board of Trade building is Ceres, the Roman goddess of grain with a sheaf of wheat in her left hand.
As poet Carl Sandburg wrote in his legendary poem “Chicago”:
Hog Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders.
The mill and silo buildings provide a direct connection to Chicago’s historic wheat industry and should be both recognized and protected.
THREAT: Eckhart & Swan Company Wheat Mill
Shortly after Archer Daniels Midland announced plans to close the historic wheat plant in June 2017, the property was sold to Sterling Bay, one of the most active developers in the Fulton Market District and Chicago. Preservation Chicago met with Sterling Bay to encourage adaptive reuse of at least some portion of the historic building complex. Sterling Bay has experience with the adaptive reuse of historic buildings, and initial renderings released by Sterling Bay in January 2020 indicated the adaptive reuse of the 6-story mill building and a few of the silos.
Preservation Chicago would have celebrated the development if it had proceeded per the rendering. It would have been a creative adaptive reuse that recognized and honored this interesting building and the Chicago history it represents. It also would have represented a significant investment in the construction of a large, modern office building.
But the renderings were only conceptual and aspirational. With no protections in place to prevent demolition of the historic building, a demolition permit was applied for, issued, and demolition commenced the following day in February 2021. When pressed, Sterling Bay admitted that they planned to clear the entire site.
RECOMMENDATIONS: Eckhart & Swan Company Wheat Mill
Experience developers know that it is far easier to develop a vacant lot than to replace a historic building, so they often will seek to demolish historic buildings prior to beginning the process of seeking approval for a new construction project. This way community stakeholders will be presented with the option of supporting either a building or a vacant lot.
The timing of the demolition is unfortunate, but not surprising. Neither the specific development plan nor the necessary increased zoning request has yet been presented by the developer to the City, Alderman, or neighborhood. By the time these stakeholders have an opportunity to comment on the proposed development, all of the historic elements will have been demolished. Any potential future negotiation to grant a highly valuable zoning increase in exchange for preserving some of the historic building has been eliminated by the timing of the demolition.
Preservation Chicago recommends that the City of Chicago eliminate this problematic “scorched earth” loophole. If the demolition permit and construction permit were issued simultaneously, this issue would be addressed. One of the potential solutions is the City could require a two-year freeze on zoning increases for properties after they demolish a building 50 years or older, unless the demolition permit and construction permit were issued simultaneously. Another option would be to mandate detailed review of all demolition requests for buildings 50 years or older. Recommend reuse where appropriate, and place greater fees and building material reclamation requirements to foster more opportunities to consider reuse.Cassidy Tire. Photo Credit: Serhii Chrucky
Tyler & Hippach Glass Company
HISTORY: Tyler & Hippach Glass Company
The Tyler & Hippach Mirror Company Factory / Wm. J. Cassidy Tire Building, located at 344 N. Canal Street, is threatened with demolition to make way for a new 33-story apartment tower.
Tyler & Hippach Glass Company was founded in 1887 and produced high quality glass and mirrors for furniture companies in Chicago and across the country. In 1902, they hired renowned architect Henry J. Schlacks to design their new headquarters and factory on Clinton Street. Schlacks was a highly accomplished architect who is better known for designing many of Chicago’s most beautiful churches. He was no stranger to commercial architecture and began his architectural career working in the office of Dankmar Adler & Louis Sullivan. The building is an excellent example of a “Chicago School” or “Chicago Commercial Style” and is a fine example of a steel-framed structure of its era.
The Tyler & Hippach Glass Company was a leading glass manufacturer in Chicago during the late 19th and early 20th century, and research suggests that it likely glazed or supplied the glass windows and elements to many celebrated Chicago School buildings, many of which are designated Chicago Landmarks. The Tyler & Hippach Glass Company name is not familiar to many Chicagoans today perhaps due to the extraordinary series of tragedies suffered by the family which owned the company. The Hippach Family was in the audience at the Iroquois Theater in 1903 and lost two children during the disastrous fire that impacted life safety standards across the country. After a European vacation, the family set sail in April 1912 on the maiden voyage of a new ship called the Titanic.
In 1906, the Chicago & North Western Railroad began planning the expansion of its West Loop terminal. The plans called for the purchase and demolition of blocks of buildings along the east side of Clinton Sstreet to erect the rail trestle from the new station that still exists today. Numerous early Chicago buildings were razed to make way for construction of the rail trestle, including a number which the project engineer from the period noted were historic.
The recently completed Tyler & Hippach factory building also stood in the way of the rail expansion. However, it was determined that the five‐story factory building was too valuable to demolish, so alternate plans were made to lift and move the entire building out of harm’s way.
The Chicago & North Western Rail Company purchased the building from Tyler & Hippach and made plans to move the entire 6,000-ton structure approximately 220 feet to the south and east. William Grace & Company was hired, and they brought in Harvey Sheeler, a highly regarded engineer and building mover, to prepare plans to move the massive brick factory building. Sheeler had patented a system for moving large and heavy objects on steel rollers, a system which was celebrated for its great successes.
In 1908, tracks, screw jacks and teams of workers were assembled to move the building 52 feet south and 168 feet east to the building’s current location at 344 North Canal. At the time, Sheeler claimed it was the largest building ever moved. Others marveled that not a single crack formed in the masonry or that even one brick was loosened.
In 1908, The Engineering Record reported in their September 19, 1908, page 317 that it was the largest building move ever completed. This article from the period also noted details regarding the remarkable contribution of the original owners to Chicago’s architecture and their tragic personal story.
The factory remains largely intact from its original appearance. Most of the original windows remain in place, with the exception of in‐filled openings and newer units on the first and second floors on the north and south elevations.
THREATS & RECOMMENDATIONS: Preservation Chicago believes the building could be considered for Chicago Landmark designation as it was designed by a prominent architect. Other structures by Henry Schlacks are protected under a Chicago Landmark designation, and this is a rare surviving example of an industrial building by him.
Preservation Chicago has encouraged the City of Chicago to take steps to create a Chicago Landmark designation and encourage the developer to incorporate the Cassidy/Tyler & Hippach Glass Company Building into the larger residential development proposed for this site. There is ample room for both new and old to coexist.
Current zoning would allow for a 33-story building, but a zoning change is required to allow for a residential use and the proposed 50% increase in the total unit count from 228 to 343 units. Preservation Chicago strongly encouraged 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly to require that the historic building be incorporated into the new construction $150 million development plans as part of the zoning change.
We outreached to 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly and to the developer, The Habitat Company, to encourage a preservation-sensitive project. Additionally, Preservation Chicago spoke in favor of preservation, adaptive reuse and incorporating the existing building into the new construction plans at the community meetings held in December 2019.
After the community meeting, Alderman Reilly agreed to support the new development without any requirements for preservation. The project has moved through various City of Chicago approvals culminating in the approval of Chicago City Council in June 2020.Salvation Army. Photo Credit: Serhii Chrucky
Wrigley Lodge / Salvation Army Building
OVERVIEW: Wrigley Lodge / Salvation Army Building
Due to skyrocketing valuations, the Salvation Army is planning to sell it’s building complex at 509 N. Union Avenue. The Salvation Army had considered renovating the four buildings on the site, but ultimately decided to offer the property for sale. The complex of buildings is expected to sell for between $30 million and $40 million. The underlying zoning would allow new development much taller and denser than the existing structures.
The Wrigley Lodge / Salvation Army Building is a unique blend of two distinct architectural styles. A soaring Streamline Modern element joins the 5-and 6-story red brick industrial lofts to create wonderfully balanced asymmetry.The result is an iconic building. Its distinctive appearance and important history make this building an important one to save.
HISTORY: Wrigley Lodge / Salvation Army Building
Wrigley Lodge / Salvation Army Building has an important history. The building was designed by C. J. Furst and Charles Rudolph in 1891. Furst & Rudolph also designed the stunning John York Store building at 1932 S. Halsted. Charles Rudolph later served as the Chicago Board of Education’s architect and designed many beautiful Chicago Public Schools including the James Mulligan Public School Building at 1855 N. Sheffield, which has since been converted into apartments.
The Wrigley Lodge / Salvation Army Building was originally built as the Braun & Fitts Butterine Factory in 1891. At that time, margarine was an innovative disruptor in the butter industry. The dairy industry was sufficiently threatened to wage a passionate lobbying campaign that resulted in the 1886 federal Margarine Act to hinder the growth of margarine through aggressive taxation and expensive licensing fees. The lobbying effort was also waged at the state level. Wisconsin, Michigan and multiple other states banned margarine completely, while in Illinois, the butter lobby was successful at getting a law enacted in 1897 to prohibit the coloring of margarine. Braun & Fitts considered moving its operations to Indiana, but ultimately decided to remain and challenge the constitutionality of the law. They continued to manufacture and color margarine with the expectation that they would be arrested. Arrests were made and after a series of trials, the law was struck down as unconstitutional in 1898. However, a new federal law imposing a 10 cent per pound tax on colored margarine was passed in 1902, which the Supreme Court upheld in the 1904 decision McCray v. United States.
Ironically, in 1912, the building was sold to the butter manufacturer Dairy Farm Products Company. In 1916, it was purchased by William Wrigley Jr. and it returned to margarine production under the Downey-Farrell Company, a company in which Wrigley had a stake. In 1923, the building was sold to the Duz Company, a powdered soap manufacturer.
William Wrigley Jr. repurchased the building in 1929 with a very different intention. The Black Friday stock market crash occurred on October 25, 1929. Approximately one year later, Wrigley donated the property to the Salvation Army for use as a lodging house for unemployed men. A formal ceremony was held on October 23, 1930 to open the “New Start Lodge,” soon to be renamed the “Wrigley Lodge.” Lewis E. Myers, chairman of the Salvation Army’s board and president of the Chicago Board of Education, presided over the event, and it featured many prominent local civic and religious leaders as speakers.
Wrigley Lodge had the capacity to lodge 1,200 men nightly and to feed over 2,000. But the goals were more broad and included rehabilitation services, paid employment opportunities within the buildings, and assistance in finding employment. Baths were available and clothing was fumigated each night. Plans included the installation of a barber shop, tailor shop, and shoe repair shop, each to be manned by craftsmen found among the lodgers. The craftsmen were to be paid, but their services were to be free to the lodgers.
The Wrigley Lodge served as a homeless shelter throughout the Great Depression and World War II. Following the war, it increasingly served as a veterans’ rehabilitation center to assist returning servicemen.
After the war, the Salvation Army began a fundraising campaign to remodel the building, and on December 9, 1947, a permit was issued for the alterations. It was remodeled in the Streamline Moderne style including the striking, asymmetric, vertical entryway with glass block and rounded corners.
Streamline Moderne alterations designed by Albert C. Fehlow were made to the building in the late 1940s. Albert C. Fehlow designed multiple Art Deco buildings for the Salvation Army in the Midwest, including their St. Paul, Minnesota headquarters, the Navitas House in Detroit, and the Men’s Social Service Center at 61st and Wentworth in Chicago.
The newly remodeled building housed a rehabilitation center for homeless and disabled men and a thrift store, which helped fund the center’s operations and employed some of the men who resided in the building. The building’s new uses were necessitated in part by the planned demolition of the Salvation Army’s Central Social Services Center, which was scheduled to be torn down to build the Congress Expressway.
Once an important element of Chicago’s historic urban skyline, the number of rooftop water tanks in Chicago has declined steeply. However, the Salvation Army water tank atop the building was restored in 2017. The Salvation Army is to be commended for restoring the building’s highly visible and iconic rooftop water tower and saving an important remnant of a once ubiquitous part of Chicago’s cityscape.
THREATS & RECOMMENDATIONS: Wrigley Lodge / Salvation Army Building
Due to skyrocketing valuations, the Salvation Army is planning to sell the building complex at 509 N. Union Avenue. The underlying zoning would allow new development much taller and denser than the existing structures. It is likely that a developer would demolish the historic buildings and clear the site.
The Salvation Army building is an outstanding structure that should be protected and preserved as part of any redevelopment of the site. Preservation Chicago encourages the Salvation Army, 27th Ward Alderman Walter Burnett, and the City of Chicago to make this a requirement upfront so that potential buyers will accommodate this in their plans from the outset.
West Loop Industrial Buildings Make Preservation Chicago’s Most Endangered Buildings List; This year’s list includes the Old Archer Daniels Midland Wheat Mill and the Tyler & Hippach Glass Company building, also known as the Cassidy Tire Company building, Mauricio Peña, Block Club Chicago, 2/24/21Download Original PDF
Another grand Masonic Temple, designed by Clarence Hatzfeld, the architect of the now-demolished South Side Masonic Temple, could be headed toward demolition as well.
Despite decades of being vacant, there is no denying the grand building on the southeast corner of 91st and Exchange is extraordinary and worth exploration for adaptive reuse potential. With $26 million being invested in the former South Chicago YMCA just two blocks east, this is a great opportunity to further spur redevelopment with a plan to restore the South Chicago Masonic Temple.
The Classical Revival 1916 Temple was designed by noted Chicago architect Clarence Hatzfeld. Hatzfeld designed several Chicago Park District fieldhouses, and has 30 properties listed in the Chicago Historic Resources Survey either under his name individually or his firm, Hatzfeld & Knox.South Chicago Masonic Temple. 2939 E. 91st St. in South Chicago. Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers
South Chicago was a bustling community when steel mills were operating along Lake Michigan. The Southeast Side neighborhood has always been a haven for new immigrants—Polish, Irish, Mexican, Swedes, Croatians, Slovaks, Serbians and Italians to name a few of the ethnic groups that settled in the area.
When the mills closed, the community struggled with loss of population and disinvestment. Ancillary businesses closed their doors as well. The people of South Chicago are a testament to the strength and bonds of communities in the City of Chicago. While they work together and united to resolve the issues that trouble the neighborhood, they are also working to inspire art and artists. The residents of South Chicago support their local businesses, and they stand up firmly against environmental polluters who want to locate their industries in the community, such as General Iron who have been working to move a metal scrap business to the area after shuttering its existing location, near the Lincoln Park Community on the city’s North Side.
The South Chicago Masonic Association was established in 1906, the same year it acquired the land on the southeast corner of 91st Street and Exchange in the South Chicago neighborhood. The land was purchased from local real estate developer Niel Lykke, who just one month prior had acquired the parcel from the First Swedish Methodist Episcopal Church of South Chicago.South Chicago Masonic Temple. Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers
The Freemasons are the oldest fraternal organization in the world. Founded in the Middle Ages, they began as skilled builders. Their square and compasses logo adorns the buildings where they used to conduct club business as well as the headstones of notable Freemasons. While the issue is sometimes disputed, the “G” in the logo stands for God, or geometry, depending on an individual’s perspective.
Notable Freemasons include George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Buzz Aldrin, John Wayne, and Chicago Mayor Harold Washington. The Freemasons are not a religious order, but members believe in a Supreme Being, and in morality, charity, and obedience to the laws of the land. As recently as the 1990s, the Roman Catholic Church forbade its members to be Freemasons, yet had their own affiliated order known as the Knights of Columbus, or K of C. The Shriners, originally known as “The Imperial Council of Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine” and founded in 1870, are an offshoot of the Freemasons. For the most part, the Freemasons remain a mens-only club, with a separate order composed of mostly women called the Order of the Eastern Star.
The South Chicago Masonic Association commissioned architect Clarence Hatzfeld to design the 3-story brick Classical Revival building, and construction began in 1916. Ruffner-Bloss Co. was listed as the mason on the project. The total construction budget was $100,000.South Chicago Masonic Temple. Photo Credit: Debbie Mercer
Hatzfeld designed fieldhouse buildings for the Chicago Park District including Indian Boundary Park, Athletic Field, Independence Park, and Portage Park. He was also the architect of the South Side Masonic Temple, which was built in 1921 at 6400 S. Green Street, in the Englewood Community. The structure was part of several long-term preservation advocacy campaigns and a “Chicago 7 Most Endangered” building in 2004 and 2015. Despite these efforts, including a plan to reuse the building as part of the new Kennedy-King College Campus in 2007, the South Side Masonic Temple was demolished in 2018. Clarence Hatzfeld is known to have been the architect of record of five of the historic homes in the Villa Chicago Landmark District and is believed to have designed as many as 20 more. Listed individually and with his firm Hatzfeld & Knox, he has 30 buildings listed in the Chicago Historic Resource Survey. His partner, Arthur Knox, was an associate of Dwight Perkins while the design of Carl Schurz High School was underway. Schurz School is also a designated Chicago Landmark.
The last Masonic Lodge, “Triluminar Lodge #767,” left the South Chicago Masonic Temple building in 1975. That Masonic lodge is still in existence, operating now out of a location in the nearby suburb of Lansing, Illinois. In 1978, the South Chicago Masonic Association sold the building to Mary Ann Grochal, who lived at 3030 E. 92nd Street.
The Mexican Community Committee owned the building from the mid-1980s until 2006, when it lost the building to foreclosure. During its ownership tenure, the building housed the Welded Tube Company of America, as well as serving as the temporary site for the South Chicago Branch of the Chicago Public Library for three years while its permanent location (9033 S. Houston) was being extensively renovated.
While Preservation Chicago has been unable to tour the building’s interior, most Masonic temples have a grand lodge on an upper floor for ceremonies and large events. The Masonic temples served as a hub for the community.
The current owners, under the name “91st and Exchange LLC” and Mark R. Reynolds, purchased the property in 2008. The building has remained vacant since.
Years of vacancy have left the South Chicago Masonic Temple in a badly deteriorated state. Even while in use, maintenance appears to have been lax on the building. The property taxes have remained unpaid since Tax Year 2010. The annual tax statement due on the property is now over $100,000. Tax bills and notices sent to the owner of record have been returned to the County, giving the impression that the current owners have walked away from this building.
The property was listed for sale, but the $750,000+ price tag likely exceeds the value of the building in light of the extensive work needed to restore it to a viable reuse. The prior listing agent has noted that she is no longer the agent for the South Chicago Masonic Temple.
Despite the disinvestment and blight which overwhelmed the South Chicago community after the closing of the steel mills, there are positive indicators that the neighborhood has tremendous redevelopment potential. South Chicago was chosen as one of the City of Chicago’s INVEST South/West communities, and redevelopment of the shuttered YMCA at 3039 E. 91st Street into affordable housing represents an estimated $26 million investment in the immediate area. Claretian Associates, in partnership with Interfaith Housing Development Corporation, is also planning a 78-unit affordable housing development at 3211-3229 E. 92nd Street. The $30 million development is expected to be complete in 2023.South Chicago Masonic Temple. Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers
Redeveloping the South Chicago Masonic Temple would have a great impact on the immediate commercial area. The building sits adjacent to the Chicago Family Health Center, a thriving health facility with several locations throughout Chicago.
The City of Chicago can package INVEST South/West incentives and resources for a catalytic redevelopment project in South Chicago. Placing this property back into a vibrant use would further advance historic preservation as an economic development engine in the community. South Chicago has its share of vacant land, and it is well-represented by strip mall-like development. Keeping this history and character alive will contribute to a revitalized South Chicago – one that values its history as it grows stronger.
In the immediate area of the South Chicago Masonic Temple are at least two other vacant buildings, facing an uncertain future, that could be grouped together in a larger redevelopment plan.SS Peter and Paul. Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers
Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church
Started in 1882 as a Roman Catholic Church that served German families, Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church at 2938 E. 91st Street is a remarkable Art Moderne church and school that was built in 1941. The church conducted its first Mass on April 2, 1882, in the original church and school building. The school opened on November 25, 1882. The land, which was originally in the Village of Hyde Park, was annexed to the City of Chicago on June 29, 1889.
The original church campus included a rectory, church hall, and convent building. The church had originally planned to build a new facility in 1932, but the Depression impacted those plans. The grade school continued to grow its membership in these years, and they opened the high school in 1939.
Construction began on the new church and school in July 1941, with an estimated construction budget of $140,000. The architect was G.S. Smith. It was built with brick walls, and concrete floors and roof. In 1948, the high school became a girls’ school. The high school program ended in 1969. The school and church finally closed their doors in 1987, as it and two other South Chicago parishes were closed.
In 1997, the building was transferred from the Catholic Bishop of Chicago to CLCET, Inc., a charitable title holding corporation for the Chicago Legal Clinic, Inc. It held title to the property until it was sold in 2017 to the Chicago Family Health Center, which operates a facility in the 9100 block of South Exchange Avenue.
The church and school building are currently vacant. The Sts. Peter and Paul Church and School building appears to have some deferred maintenance issues, but overall the building looks to be in good and stable condition.
The Sts. Peter & Paul Church and School building has an estimated 35,000 square feet – including the basement which housed the auditorium and stage, the church on the first floor, with ancillary rooms, and most of the school’s classrooms on the second and third floors. The church and school site includes a substantial parking lot as well.SS Peter and Paul. Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers
The South Chicago Masonic Temple, located just across 91st Street, is estimated to be just over 30,000 square feet. The interior condition is unknown, but based on the roof condition, it can be anticipated to be deteriorating, due to water infiltration. There is no off-street parking available at the Masonic Temple site.
Also of note is a two-story Art Deco/Art Moderne store and office building at 9135 S. Exchange, which appears prime for a reuse, along with a restoration of its facade. Built in 1935, the colorful polychromed terra cotta tile remains intact on the building’s facade, and would be even more stunning if it were restored.
South Chicago is a strong community of people who care about their history and their future. It is a neighborhood that is worth a combined private and public investment to bring greater economic opportunity. The South Chicago Masonic Temple can be a wonderful anchor for future planned and targeted redevelopment.
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This year, the Cornell Store & Flats has been selected once more as a Chicago 7 Most Endangered after first being listed in 2017. Designed by Walter Burley Griffin, a prolific designer of both buildings and landscapes, this exceptional building is an outlier in Griffin’s career. Compared to his largely residential designs here in the United States and his city plans in Australia, the Cornell Store & Flats is the rare example of a combination commercial and residential Griffin-designed building.
The Cornell Store & Flats is located on once-bustling East 75th Street near its intersection with South Chicago Avenue. Considered by some architectural historians to be one of the most significant buildings in Chicago, this Prairie School structure has been beset by years of neglect. This has been further exacerbated by disinvestment in the neighborhood of Greater Grand Crossing, near the western border of the South Shore community. The building’s future has been uncertain since the passing of its long-time owner, even approaching permanent loss after entering demolition court in 2016. Preservation Chicago is of the opinion that with the right owner and development plan, a viable path for reuse exists for this irreplaceable structure.
In an additional effort to further spotlight the significance of the Cornell Store & Flats, our statewide preservation partner, Landmarks Illinois, listed it as one of the “Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois” in 2016. Still, the building remains vacant and further deteriorating with each year that passes. We are hopeful that the Cornell Store & Flats can still be preserved and repurposed, ensuring that this landmark by one of the country’s most accomplished architects continues to serve its community long into the future.Cornell Store & Flats. Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers
Completed in 1908, the Cornell Store & Flats was created as an investment property by the estate of Paul Cornell. A New York-born lawyer who moved to Chicago as a young man, Cornell bought 300 acres of land bounded by what would eventually become 51st and 55th Streets in 1853. The sizable parcel was named Hyde Park and Cornell developed it rapidly, advertising it to well-off Chicagoans as a luxury lakeside retreat. By the time of his death in 1904, Cornell was able to witness the tremendous growth and annexation of Hyde Park Township to the City of Chicago in 1889, the establishment of the University of Chicago in 1890, and the success of the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893.
Cornell’s family sought to maintain his legacy of development after his death. They decided to erect an unparalleled modern building on Greater Grand Crossing’s 75th Street corridor that would provide his estate with rental income from residential and retail spaces. To create this investment property, Cornell’s estate hired architect Walter Burley Griffin for the commission.
At that time, Griffin, in his early 30s, was enjoying a very successful career. After graduating from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1899, Griffin worked for two years under Prairie School practitioners Dwight H. Perkins, Robert C. Spencer, Jr., and Henry Webster Tomlinson. Soon after in 1901, Griffin began a five-year career as a draftsman in Frank Lloyd Wright’s Oak Park studio. However, even before employment in these offices, Griffin had shown interest as a student in non-Western architecture, especially Japanese and pre-Columbian styles. This mix of influences can be observed in several of Griffin’s designs and, to some extent, in the overall massing of the Cornell Store & Flats.
The building is an exemplar of the Prairie School of architecture and displays multiple trademarks of the style. Drawing on the boundless expanse of the Midwestern landscape, the Prairie School often implemented low-hipped or flat rooflines, an emphasis on horizontality, natural construction materials, and little to no ornamentation. In this regard, the Cornell Store & Flats adheres faithfully.
The building features imposing and monumental facades on both its north and south elevations. The building’s ground floor storefront, which faces East 75th Street, originally boasted a glass display window that projected outward from the body of the structure. This feature has since been replaced with a brick wall containing glass block windows. From the clerestory of the first floor to the roofline, five massive brick piers extend upward, creating the structural bays of the building’s facade. On the second floor, slender masonry piers separate pairs of narrow, deeply inset windows. The vertical piers are further defined by both continuous and noncontinuous bands of limestone lintels and sills which frame the recessed windows and emphasize the building’s horizontal massing. Reaching the top of this facade, the larger brick piers terminate at a thick horizontal limestone slab. Due to the deep recessed reveal, this stone slab appears to float above the facade at the roofline, further emphasizing the horizontal design qualities of the building.Cornell Store & Flats. Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers
The north façade, which originally faced towards a narrow right-of-way and residential street, is equally impressive. Employing a similar articulation to the 75th Street facade, the massive vertical Roman brick piers extend from the base of the building upward to another floating limestone slab platform. Griffin adds visual interest by way of a staircase hidden behind a wall of Roman brick that leads up to an arched entrance. This opening once guided residents into an open-air courtyard on the second floor which featured a glass block floor through which natural light flooded the retail space below. Four apartment units encircle and open onto the courtyard, creating a communal space for tenants while also maximizing sunlight and fresh air circulation. This courtyard offered a secluded outdoor space in the midst of a busy commercial and industrial environment.
After the construction of Cornell Store & Flats, Griffin rarely returned to commercial designs, especially those with residential spaces attached. In 1912, Griffin won an international competition in which he was selected to design the layout of the new capital city of Canberra, Australia. Later, Griffin and his wife, Marion Mahony Griffin—an accomplished architect in her own right and a former employee of Wright as well—would go on to complete numerous designs in India where Griffin would eventually pass away in 1937 at the age of 60. Still, elements of the Cornell Store & Flats appear in some of Griffin’s later work, most notably at the Langi Flats in Melbourne. The Cornell Store & Flats even bears more than a passing resemblance to Wright’s City National Bank building in Mason City, Iowa, which was completed roughly a year and a half after Griffin’s building was completed. This further suggests that the Cornell Store & Flats’ architectural significance is one of truly great importance.
In recent decades, the building has deteriorated rapidly due to neglect and exposure to the elements. While much of the exterior masonry is in good condition, the same cannot be said of the Cornell Store & Flats’ interiors. The structural integrity of the ceilings and floorboards is greatly compromised with sagging and buckling evident throughout. However, recent visits to the building indicate that other later modifications can be successfully reversed, including changes to the storefront windows fronting East 75th Street and those made to the upper courtyard.Cornell Store & Flats. 1230-32 E. 75th St. in Greater Grand Crossing. Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers
Due to deferred maintenance and disinvestment in the neighborhoods of Greater Grand Crossing and South Shore, the Cornell Store & Flats remains in as precarious a position as it did when it was first listed as a Chicago 7 in 2017, if not worse. As each winter passes, additional decay erodes the building. Of additional concern is the fact that the site is largely unsecured: unlocked front gates allow access to a rear entrance where the absence of a door allows unrestricted entry. This leaves the Cornell Store & Flats vulnerable to occurences of vandalism or destruction. The building has been in demolition court once already—a second time may further jeopardize the future of the Cornell Store & Flats.Cornell Store & Flats. Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers
Preservation Chicago enthusiastically supports the designation of the Cornell Store & Flats as an official Chicago Landmark. Numerous Griffin-designed buildings have already been Landmarked including multiple houses in the Walter Burley Griffin Place District within the Beverly community. Landmarking the Cornell Store & Flats would be another logical testament to Griffin’s place in Chicago’s architectural legacy.
It is additionally crucial to the survival of the Cornell Store & Flats that its current owners, South Shore Management LLC, make progress towards renovation or transfer the property to an owner with clear plans for restoration.
Returning the site to a residential and retail mixed-use purpose, for example, would serve the local neighborhood and honor the legacy of the Cornell Store & Flats’ original design. As an additional incentive, because the site is adjacent to the 75th Street/Grand Crossing Metra station, a transit-oriented development here could secure additional state or federal funding. The building should also be explored for potential as a transit hub and train station for both the Metra Electric and South Shore train lines, and perhaps a bus line, serving both Chicago and nearby suburbs.
Preservation Chicago is confident that there are multiple opportunities for a redevelopment project that will ensure the retention and reuse of the Cornell Store & Flats while also investing in the communities of Greater Grand Crossing and South Shore.
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As the City of Chicago works across all levels to become a more equitable place, we need to honor and elevate African American sites of significance like the Phyllis Wheatley Club and Home.
A stalwart and resolute group of Black women in early 1900s Chicago joined together to create the Phyllis Wheatley Home, a program to house and educate other Black women and girls who either traveled to Chicago during the Great Migration or found themselves without stable housing. The well-known settlement houses at the time, like the Jane Addams Hull-House and the YWCA (Young Women’s Christian Association), were segregated and did not accommodate women of color. Recognizing the great risk that young women encountered when moving to an unfamiliar city, the founders of the Phyllis Wheatley Club created a safe haven for the flourishing development and protection of the young women they supported.
The third and final Phyllis Wheatley Home was built at 5128 S. Michigan Avenue. At its peak, it could house over 22 women and girls. It functioned as the Phyllis Wheatley Home for 50 years and has been in private ownership since the 1970s. In recent years, the 125-year-old home has suffered from deferred maintenance and significant water infiltration. A hearing is scheduled for March 16, 2021 in demolition court to address code violations. A plan for immediate action to stabilize and restore the home is essential to avoid a possible demolition order. The need is urgent to find a preservation solution to save this building which is a testament to the power of Black women and their role in addressing societal needs in 1900s Chicago.
We at Preservation Chicago continue to uncover additional stories of the extraordinary women in the Phyllis Wheatley Club and their work to improve the lives of African American women, girls, and the community at large.Phyllis Wheatley frontispiece by Scipio Moorhead, Courtesy Chicago History Museum
Phillis Wheatley was a poet who lived from approximately 1753 to 1784, becoming the first English-speaking person of African descent to publish a book. She was also the second woman and author to be published in America.
Wheatley was kidnapped from West Africa, transported by slave ship to Boston, Massachusetts and sold into slavery in 1761. John and Susanna Wheatley, who purchased the young girl, named her after the slave ship she arrived in—the Phillis.
It is said that the Wheatley family was progressive for their time, allowing Wheatley to receive an “unprecedented education” for an enslaved person, learning to read both Greek and Latin.
While enslaved, she traveled to England, meeting with royalty and dignitaries there. She also had connections with George Washington, John Paul Jones, Benjamin Franklin, and John Hancock. After her emancipation in 1773, she lived the remainder of her years as a free woman, later marrying John Peters, a free Black man. Her remarkable accomplishments are surprisingly well-documented, but it’s heartbreaking to imagine what works and stories of her experiences have been lost since she died.
She and her accomplishments have been memorialized many times in the years since her death, demonstrated by the fact that many schools across America today bear her name. Surely her greatest posthumous legacy, however, is the Phyllis Wheatley Home.
Inspired by Wheatley’s strength and talents, Phyllis Wheatley Clubs were formed in multiple cities throughout the United States. While the spelling of Wheatley’s name is acknowledged as “Phillis,” the clubs were formed under the spelling of “Phyllis”. The club’s focus was on improving the lives of young women through education, job training, sewing classes, and economics classes, or, as noted by the organization, “housing, health, vocational guidance, recreation and religious education”.
The Chicago branch of the Phyllis Wheatley Club was formed in 1896 by a group of Black women led by Elizabeth Lindsay Davis who, via connections to strong social networks and philanthropic efforts throughout the city, had the means to address impoverished living conditions for women and young girls, especially single women arriving during the Great Migration. This movement saw Southern Blacks heading north to find great opportunity and fill industrial jobs. As Davis wrote: “The burden of caring for this newly transplanted population was left entirely to the colored citizens of the city, who are, in the mass, already overburdened, hard-working people with little accumulated surplus among them.”Phyllis Wheatley Home, Photo Credit: Mary Lu Seidel
It was one of the oldest such Black women’s clubs formed in Chicago and was part of a vast network of programs organized under the National Association of Colored Women’s (NACW) Clubs. Davis was the Illinois delegate to this national organization along with journalist and anti-lynching advocate Ida B. Wells Barnett. Ms. Davis also authored a book, “The Story of the Illinois Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs covering 1900-1922.” The book outlines the various clubs throughout the state, and the women who helped found them.
The Phyllis Wheatley Home also provided opportunities for Black women entering the newly professionalized field of social work. Many African American women graduates of the Chicago School of Civics and Philanthropy found positions as lead workers and residents at Black settlement houses. The Phyllis Wheatley Home hired Jennie Lawrence, a graduate of the program, to oversee its operations, and Lawrence introduced modern social work methods to the Home.
The first Phyllis Wheatley Home at 3530 S. Rhodes was purchased for $3,400 in 1906-07. The nine-room home was opened to women as a settlement house in 1908. The Wheatley Home then moved to 3256 S. Giles, originally known as Forest Avenue, where it operated until acquiring the home at 5128 S. Michigan Avenue in 1925-26. Sadly, the first two Wheatley Homes have been demolished.
Originally constructed in 1896 for William H. Ebbert, the 6,600 square foot home at 5128 S. Michigan Avenue was designed by architect Frederick B. Townsend. Townsend, a prominent Chicago architect, is also credited with designing the “Five Houses on Avers Avenue”, now a Chicago Landmark District, along with 4808 S. Kimbark Avenue, all of which are noted in the Chicago Historic Resources Survey.
Preservation Chicago has been able to connect with the relatives of one woman who used to live in the Phyllis Wheatley Home, and they were able to share with us stories of what life was like there. Charlotte Pearson Weaver lived in the Wheatley Home on Michigan Avenue until she married her husband George Weaver in 1928. In the late 1960s, she returned to the home to serve as a house mother for three years. Charlotte was born in 1902, and she migrated to Chicago from Demopolis, Alabama, moving into the Wheatley Home. Her daughter Georgetta Cooper recalls her mother’s stories about the rules of the home. Guests, especially men, could only be entertained on restricted days and times to visits on the first floor of the home. The second and third floors were where the women’s bedrooms were. Women were screened and interviewed by the Home’s Board of Directors. The women on the Board ran the home, according to Ms. Cooper, and they were correct, “cultured” women — active in their churches and civic organizations. The women who resided in the home had strict curfews, and there was no smoking or drinking of alcohol allowed. The women had to arrive well-dressed for dinner, which was formal every day.
The house rules were significantly loosened by the time Ms. Weaver returned to serve as a house mother in the late 1960s. Her granddaughters, Kathy Scott and Maria Scott recall visiting their grandmother at the Wheatley Home. They remembered all the wood finishes and paneling in the house, and they were especially fond of the old-time pop machine in the kitchen where they would buy 5-cent bottles of Mountain Dew and Orange Crush.Phyllis Wheatley Home, 5128 S. Michigan Ave. Photo Credit: Serhii Chrucky
Other African-American Settlement Homes in Chicago:
The Phyllis Wheatley Home was part of a larger legacy of Black settlement homes in Chicago which included:
- The Melissa Elam Home for Working Women and Girls, 4555 S. Champlain
- The Melissa Elam Home for Working Women and Girls, 4726 S. King Drive
- The Frederick Douglass Center, 2032 S. Wabash Avenue
- The Fannie Emanuel Settlement House, 2732 Armour Avenue
- The Abraham Lincoln Center, 700 E. Oakwood Boulevard
- The Volunteer Workers Charity Club Home for Aged and Infirm Colored People, 610 W. Garfield Boulevard
- The Volunteer Workers Charity Club Home for Aged and Infirm Colored People, 4430 S. Vincennes Avenue
Besides the Phyllis Wheatley Home, the Melissa Elam Home for Working Women and Girls at 4726 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive is the only other known remaining Black settlement home in Chicago. It is also currently vacant and boarded up like the Phyllis Wheatley Home. Dr. Margaret Burroughs and Loretta Peyton (Ms. Elam’s niece) worked to save and restore this settlement home through a group they formed called the Friends of the Elam House Foundation. The Foundation’s work included pursuing a Chicago Landmark designation to ensure the home could not be demolished. It was designated a Chicago Landmark on March 21, 1979. The home was restored impeccably, with the wood-paneled walls stripped of paint, hand-oiled, and revitalized. The third-floor ballroom, with its small seating areas, was next on its restoration list. Sadly, in 1992 a fire destroyed the interior of the home. It is owned by the Fitz Corporation, which acquired the building in 1997 through a tax sale.
African-American Women Leaders in the Social Club and Settlement House movement
- Ida B. Wells Barnett was involved in the establishment and support of many African-American women’s clubs and settlement houses.
- Dr. Fannie Emanuel, who graduated as a medical doctor from the Chicago College of Medicine in 1915, served as a Board member of the Phyllis Wheatley Club
- Louis Solomon Waller, one-time president of the Frederick Douglass Center.
- Sadie Pritchard Hart, who worked with the Phyllis Wheatley Home. She was also a prominent member of the Order of the Eastern Stars, the Freemasons division for women (see the Chicago 7 Most Endangered 2021 list for the South Chicago Masonic Temple).
- Fannie Barrier Williams, who helped to secure recognition of the “American Negro” in the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, served on the Phyllis Wheatley Board of Directors.
- Fannie Mason was among the founders of the Home for Aged and Infirm Colored People in Chicago.
- Minnie A. Collins worked for decades with the Phyllis Wheatley Club, and was chairwoman of the Board of Managers of the Phyllis Wheatley Home.
- Ella Johnson served as the Phyllis Wheatley Club treasurer.
- Clara Johnson served as President of the Phyllis Wheatley Home.
- Mattie Johnson Young served on the Phyllis Wheatley Association Board of Directors.
- Ethel McCracken Cleaves was a Chicago public school teacher who helped raise money for the Phyllis Wheatley Home and the Old Folks’ Home.
The work of women’s organizations and clubs, like the Phyllis Wheatley Home, to support and advance women’s lives was critical in this time period. They functioned as job and leadership training centers and their advocacy for increasing and protecting women’s rights, including suffrage, was critical when those rights were nonexistent or emerging. Preserving historic buildings like the Wheatley Home makes the stories of this work real and present in a way that books, websites, and other media do not. Saving the places in our landscape where such important work happened makes it possible for us to understand the past and use it to continue the work today. The Phyllis Wheatley Home holds the memories of the countless Black women who left behind the Jim Crow South for a new life in Chicago.Phyllis Wheatley Home, Photo Credit: Mary Lu Seidel
Water infiltration and temperature fluctuations are always significant threats to historic buildings across the country. These same elements have harmed the Phyllis Wheatley Home. The roof is in need of full replacement as it is highly compromised. The home’s rear wall has greatly deteriorated and requires major repairs or perhaps complete reconstruction. Water damage and other failures have also wreaked havoc on the Wheatley Home’s interiors. However, the home’s basement, foundation, and remaining elevations appear to be in stable condition. Despite these many issues throughout the property, original wood cabinetry, decorative trim mouldings, doors, historic light fixtures, and the original wood staircases are all intact.
The current homeowners, Dr. Ariajo “JoAnn” Cobb Tate and Martin Tate, are committed to restoring the property and its important history, although they are struggling to secure the resources needed for a complete restoration and renovation of the building.
Without an immediate and viable plan for restoration, along with funding, the home could be potentially ordered demolished at its March 2021 hearing before the City of Chicago’s Buildings Division Court.Phyllis Wheatley Home, Photo Credit: Mary Lu Seidel
Chicago has an unfortunate record of demolishing settlement house buildings. Even the Hull-House, the most renowned settlement house in the city, suffered this fate—during the 1960s, all but two of its thirteen buildings were destroyed to make way for the University of Illinois at Chicago campus. As few sites of Black social settlements remain in Chicago or across the nation, preserving the Phyllis Wheatley Home is essential. Preservation advocates and the City of Chicago should prioritize elevating this history as we strive to embrace diversity, equity and inclusion in everything we do.
The Phyllis Wheatley Home is one of few surviving testaments to the power of Black women who were committed to being part of the solution toward housing and living conditions that were especially hard on Chicago’s Black residents. It is imperative that all divisions in the City of Chicago (especially the Building and Planning Departments) work with the current owners, the Alderwoman, the Washington Park community, and the preservation community to find a solution that will ensure its protection from demolition and a solid plan for its restoration.
The building’s estimated rehabilitation costs are roughly $700,000 for the necessary exterior repairs and range from $1 million to $1.5 million for the entire structure. These costs may exceed the post-rehabilitation value of the home, so public subsidies or philanthropic contributions will be required to make these substantial repairs.
Preservation Chicago is committed to working with all stakeholders to achieve a preservation outcome of restoring this place that tells the important story of Black women’s clubs, suffrage efforts, and settlement houses in Chicago. In a full circle moment of great synergy, a group of professional Black women has organized to find solutions to save the Wheatley Home. Preservation Chicago would be honored to support their work in every way we can.
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“Forever open, clear and free” aligns with the spirit of a core American ideal, and almost appears to reflect the words, expression and thoughts of the Founding Fathers of our Nation.
Yet this quote in its fullness “Public ground”—“A common, to remain forever open, clear and free of any buildings, or other obstructions,” was an early ideal and vision of our City’s earliest pioneers and legislators, to protect the Chicago Lakefront and to insure it was accessible to the public. Dating to a year before the City’s incorporation in 1836, this forward-thinking vision was adopted by our City and State, and land was set aside in Chicago for parkland, greenspace and open space near the early lakeshore to be enjoyed by all. In theory, this larger concept is a very democratic ideal.
However, after more than a century of additions and parkland improvements along the lakeshore, recent years have brought various changes and proposals to the Chicago Lakefront which have raised a new awareness of and genuine concerns for this most amazing resource. These extend from the Lakefront sites proposed for the 2016 Olympics which would have adversely impacted almost all of Chicago’s parks, and eliminating thousands of old-growth trees, while adding stadiums and other ancillary structures, to the additions to Soldier Field. Also extending these same adverse and harmful ideas to proposals such as the relocation of the Children’s Museum in Grant Park and the Lucas Museum in Burnham Park.Jackson Park. Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers
The proposed 20-acre Obama Presidential Center on the Lakefront in Jackson Park poses a special burden on this tenet of “forever open, clear and free.” We have a remarkable president whose roots are connected to Chicago, and we welcome a center named in his honor located in Chicago. However, the Jackson Park proposal for the Obama Presidential Center would result in a clearing of 20 acres of trees, parklands, recreational facilities and ball fields, many for children, to an expansion and widening of Lake Shore Drive and Stony Island Avenue, and impacting more than 400 trees to be cut and discarded. There is the possibility for the loss of more trees, wildlife habitats and migratory flyways for this development, along with roadway expansions and incursions into Jackson Park at both the east and west perimeters of the park. In reality the roadway closures adversely impact other areas of the park, where closed roads are replaced with new asphalt surfaces, thereby widening other nearby streets and Lake Shore Drive.Northerly Island. Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers
While Preservation Chicago welcomes the Obama Presidential Center to Chicago and to the South Side, we are of the opinion that nearby private non-parklands would be a more appropriate site for these large structures and this new presidential complex. We also acknowledge that the Chicago parks have fallen into terrible disrepair, with many buildings needing extensive repairs, and in some cases even complete reconstruction to address long-deferred maintenance. It often appears that parkland giveaways have become a remedy for reinvestment in our neglected parks and portions of our Lakefront, which is really tragic, as these should be priorities to protect, maintain and steward in perpetuity.
Also alarming and of great concern on the Chicago Lakefront are proposed plans for revisioning and an overhaul of North Lake Shore Drive, one of Chicago’s most beautiful thoroughfares. The overhaul plans would rethink the lakefront from Navy Pier near Grand Avenue at the south to Hollywood Avenue at its northernmost border. The project is called “Redefine the Drive: North Lake Shore Drive,” with studies conducted by both the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and the Chicago Department of Transportation(CDOT), has the potential to destroy and ruin many of the unique characteristics of this world-class boulevard and drive.Southworks: Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers
The Lake Shore Drive redefining proposals have included such concepts as removing many of the historic overpasses and bridges, with their scenic vistas, undulating and rolling perspectives as they rise and fall over the dramatic panoramic views of the downtown buildings, the parks and Lakefront. This proposal also extends to the straightening of many of the gentile curves, while also adding vast areas of landfill and high berms, which will often obscure views of Lake Michigan for motorists. It also proposes widening the thoroughfare in certain locations and an underground tunneling of huge areas of the drive from Navy Pier to Oak Street Beach along with some areas to the north. The tunneling for automobile traffic is equivalent to a deep and wide dry riverbed set within a depression in the earth, and it is more akin to sections of Interstate I-90 and I-94–the Dan Ryan Expressway, and I-290–the Eisenhower Expressway than a boulevard fronting parklands and Lake Michigan.
Other sections of Lake Shore Drive will be expanded, with medians and their planted trees cut and removed, shrubbery and perennials lost, and parkland and greenspace incursions in Lincoln Park for new and expanded entry, exit and bus ramps. Preservation Chicago is of the opinion that everyone should have the experience of Chicago’s parklands — whether by walking, jogging, bicycling, or even driving in an automobile. These parklands and Lakefront lands are special to all of us no matter how they are enjoyed in many various ways and experiences.Foster Ave Bridge. Photo Credit: Serhii Chrucky
Yet these public lands and spaces are often looked upon by some as vacant lands expendable for private development when indeed these are developed lands as public places and recreational environments. Some of these lands have been dedicated to the public for more than 150 years, and most all of them for over a century. These are sacred places that belong to us all as a place of refuge, reflection and recreation. These parklands and shoreline allow for a break from our daily lives, and to once again commune with nature — refreshing and energizing one’s spirits. Unfortunately, these same public and sacred grounds are also subject to political giveaways and gifts by elected officials for pet projects, sometimes to the highest bidder. Instead, we should be converting more private lands to public and using air rights over rail yards to expand these parks and lakefront lands, and if necessary, build new museums and facilities on newly created parkland sites.
Our Lakefront, its legendary parks, greenspaces, recreational and pastoral spaces, beaches, harbors and waterfront stretching almost 26 miles is so greatly associated with the City of Chicago and is often noted as “Chicago’s front yard.” These seminal Lakefront spaces and lands were designed by the best of the best in the world of architecture, landscape architecture and design. From William LeBaron Jenney, to Frederick Law Olmsted, Olmsted & Vaux, Ossian Cole (O.C.) Simonds, Swain Nelson, Jens Jensen, Alfred Caldwell, May McAdams and others.
These designers, landscape architects and architects were visionaries in their own right. They brought a new series of concepts and ideas with them to an ever-growing industrial American city in one single vision and idea. It was revolutionary in concept and executed on a grand scale, and fashioned like a work of art. These grand plans, the parklands and Lakefront, were published around the world, influenced planning in other cities and forever changed Chicago. Such plans reimagined our city from its industrial core and backbone, with the challenges of an ever-expanding urban population, while continuing to recover from the ashes and tragedy following the Chicago Fire of 1871, to a new one–a city of world renown.Northerly Island. Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers
Created with a vision which has grown tremendously since its initial legislation in 1836, the Chicago Lakefront and its parks have been reimagined from its earliest years, and have become a recreational space second to none. From a time when Michigan Avenue was almost the water’s edge, to numerous reclamations by the Illinois Central Railroad in response to a growing city and the demand for goods and transportation, the Chicago Lakefront has undergone a tremendous metamorphosis over time.
Its parks have been developed and impacted in part by natural features, man-made visions and museum institutions built on marshes, deltas, outcroppings, railroad yards and lands once part of the greater Lake Michigan watershed. From that reclaimed land area grew additional parklands, weaving together such sites and places as the Museum Campus, huge areas of Grant Park, and expanses of lakefront trails and Lake Shore Drive as a recreational boulevard tying together the lakefront and its parks to the inner-city communities that abound to the west. These parklands and much of the shoreline from Calumet Park at the Illinois-Indiana border on the South Side to Downtown, Lincoln Park, Edgewater and to the Evanston border on the far north, unite communities and varying sides of town along with our City together as a whole.
The Lakefront and its park system, continues to be a great vision, which was given credence and acceptance from a broader plan of visionaries at the top of their profession and influenced not only Chicago, but other major centers and cities, across the nation and elsewhere. It was the plans of Frederick Law Olmsted in the 1870s, and the planned vision of architect William LeBaron Jenney, regarded as the father of the skyscraper, who also designed much of our Chicago Boulevard System and our inner-connecting-city parks. It was plans of Daniel Burnham and Edward Bennett in the “Plan of Chicago” of 1909, which dared to stir one’s blood—in the famous quote by Daniel Burnham in his presentation to the Commercial Club of Chicago.
“Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably will not themselves be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone will be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency. Remember that our sons and grandsons are going to do things that will stagger us. Let your watchword be order and your beacon beauty.”
Through the decades, and now for over a century, this has been the guiding spirit of Chicago — to look upon the Lakefront and our waterways beyond industry and transportation properties, and to see it in a new vision. We see it for its impact on the human spirit, the health and recreation of its residents. It was not long ago in our history that both Lake Michigan and the Chicago River were associated with waterborne diseases like Cholera, dysentery and other afflictions. That all began to change at the onset of the 20th century when the health benefits of recreational activities, including those associated with our Lakefront, came to light. To have a perspective on such ideals, look no further than our perspective and views of the Chicago River, which was once treated much like an industrial sewer. Efforts of the late 20th century and that of the past 20 years, have changed so much that we now celebrate the Chicago River and its various branches with the downtown Riverwalk and various trails, both existing and proposed.Chicago Lakefront: Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers
These are some of the special qualities that make Chicago more livable, more special, more inviting and a great city renowned the world over. Such ideals provide a place for people, trees, and wildlife to coexist, They make our city richer — a place of refuge from the toils of daily life and a place to allow one’s self the space to reflect, to imagine and to once again commune with nature and the naturalistic environment whenever the time allows. The Lakefront and our parks allow that change from the buzz, noise and distractions of a large world class city like Chicago. We should do everything possible to retain that vision, and not allow it to be whittled-away or suffer a death by a thousand cuts. We cannot allow incursions, additional buildings and obstructions. If we really respect our parklands and environments, this should be a priority to upkeep and not take a back seat to funding, as these are all of our collective lands.
In addition to the physical and adverse harm to the Chicago Lakefront determined by the Obama Presidential Center during the Federal Section 106 Hearings, the cost to the taxpayers for this project is substantial. Closing roadways, like Cornell Drive, along with portions of Hayes Drive and the Midway Plaisance, and the expansion of South Lake Shore Drive and Stony Island Avenue is tremendous and to the estimated figure of $175 million, which will likely increase. This will destroy the historic Olmsted & Vaux roadways, which instead of being closed, should be reduced in width to their original proportions. In the 1960s these historic boulevard roadways and parkways were greatly widened, against the wishes of the community, with hundreds of trees cut and lost to this expansion. Similar plans were executed for South Lake Shore Drive, with more old-growth trees cut for expansion and a widening of the Drive. It appears that we as a city are repeating such missteps and mistakes once again. At this time in both a city and state in severe financial distress, needing to make some budget cuts and tough decisions, we should not be taking on an undue burden of removing paved roadway surfaces and relocating them elsewhere nearby. There’s also concern about the long-term maintenance of the proposed 230’ tower and ancillary buildings of the Obama Presidential Center, and the public’s commitment to potentially maintain these structures.North Lake Shore Drive, Photo Credit: Serhii Chrucky
Lincoln Park, from cemetery to parkland with additions, is considered to be Chicago’s largest park and one of the oldest of the large public parks. It extends more than six miles along the Lakefront from North Avenue to Hollywood Avenue. Expanded greatly over time, its designers included Swain Nelson and his firm of Nelson & Benson beginning in the 1860s and continuing into the 1880s, and later with Ossian Cole Simmonds and his firm of Simonds and Company in the early 1900s. Large sections of Lincoln Park were extended and formed almost in line with the ancient ridgeline of the Lake. Lincoln Park has grown over the years, even before the Chicago Fire. Originally named Cemetery Park and later Lake Park, Lincoln Park has experienced many expansions and additions over time. It was renamed Lincoln Park after our 16th president Abraham Lincoln of Illinois, following his assassination in 1865.
One of Lincoln Park’s last major expansions in the 1950s occurred when Lakefront lands associated with the Edgewater Beach Hotel and other entities became part of Lincoln Park. Today, it is one of the City’s most versatile and visited parks. In addition to Lincoln Park Zoo—one of the Nation’s oldest zoos—the park contains numerous beaches, harbors and field houses, more than any other Chicago park.
Jackson Park, Midway Plaisance, and Washington Park were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Calvert Vaux, with later additions by Olmsted Brothers, Alfred Caldwell, May McAdams and others. These amazing parks, originally sponsored by the South Parks Commission in 1869 and the years that followed, were long considered the finest of Chicago’s parks and designed by the illustrious firm of Olmsted & Vaux. Olmsted-designed landscapes are treasured the world over. The grouping of these three parks as one united vision was one of the first large and formally planned parks of the vast and expansive Lakefront parks, even if the beginnings of the North Side’s Lincoln Park began a decade earlier.Jackson Park. Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers
Jackson Park contains approximately 550 acres of land, lagoons, beaches, harbors, islands, nature sanctuaries, recreational spaces and later an 18-hole golf course. Jackson Park was linked to its sister park, the equally impressive and expansive Washington Park, also designed by Olmsted and Vaux. Jackson Park and the adjoining Midway Plaisance, was also the site of the World’s Columbian Exposition, also known as the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, attracting over 27 million visitors to Chicago.
Washington Park, also known for its vast spaces, lagoons, expansive meadows and refectory buildings on 345 acres of land, was actually completed as the first phase of the South Park’s plans by Olmsted & Vaux, noting that the regrading of Jackson Park and its marshy lands would be more expensive and challenging. Both Jackson and Washington Parks are linked by the Midway Plaisance, a linear park, spanning east to west, also created by Olmsted and Vaux in 1870. The Midway is a recessed grassy parkway and knolls of approximately 90 acres—and approximately one-mile in length. It was originally designed as part of a system of canals linking the two parks with Lake Michigan. Still, even as a recessed feature, it exhibits many of the same qualities, even if the water feature—almost a river bed — is a grassy knoll. To this day, these parks are among Chicago’s greatest greenspaces and public assets.Tree Cut and Removal in Jackson Park for the Widening of Cornell Drive in Following Citizen Protests in September 1965 © Nancy Hays
However, land giveaways and politics, including the plans for the proposed Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park, will adversely impact more than the 20 acres that the City and the State of Illinois have gifted to this private venture, which is to include a 230-foot tower and several ancillary buildings. Debate over the proposal and the potential adverse impacts have been ongoing for almost five years, with determinations that the adverse impacts are indeed recognized by a wide group of entities and individuals. If this much-welcomed presidential center to Chicago’s South Side was constructed on vast and available nearby private lands, in lieu of public parklands, the center would have most likely have been constructed and opened by now.
Promontory Point, at 55th Street and Lake Michigan at the southern end of Burnham Park, is in the Hyde Park neighborhood and part of Chicago’s lakefront park system. “The Point” was created as a WPA project in the 1930s. What had been Lake Michigan was filled with dirt retained by a limestone revetment. The Prairie School landscape design was executed by Jens Jensen’s disciple Alfred Caldwell and included signature council rings, a meadow and native plant material. The park has always welcomed the diverse communities of the South Side and allowed an unusual degree of open water lake swimming. On January 19, 2018 Promontory Point was individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places.Promontory Point. Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers
Since 2000 the Promontory Point Conservancy, a community organization representing the Hyde Park community, has been working to prevent the demolition of the historic and beautiful limestone step-stone revetment that surrounds and protects the Point. Governmental agencies had proposed replacing the limestone with a massive concrete structure that was forbidding and prevented citizens from entering the water, but this plan has been suspended. Fifty years ago there were more than sixteen miles of this naturalistic limestone revetment at the water’s edge of Chicago’s lakefront parks. Today all the City’s historic limestone revetment has been replaced by industrial-style concrete, except for what remains at Promontory Point. The Conservancy, with the support of Preservation Chicago, other preservation groups and 5th Ward Alderman Hairston, continues to work with government agencies to ensure that the limestone revetment is restored to its historic character and function.
The South Shore Cultural Center, formerly the South Shore Country Club, joins Jackson Park at its southernmost border at 67th Street. While the South Shore Cultural Center was once a private club, it is now part of the holdings of the Chicago Park District, with vast expansive lands, containing a magnificent series of structures which include a former clubhouse with grand spaces, a colonnade, gatehouse, a nature preserve, and a nine-hole golf course. These former club grounds, designed by architects Marshall & Fox with Thomas Hawkes as the landscape architect, are an integral part of the Chicago Lakefront. Efforts to save the buildings of this amazing former club and develop an extraordinary and evolving nature sanctuary have been a substantive community effort.Burnham Pavilion in Jackson Park. Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers
Rainbow Beach, located in the South Chicago community on the southeast side is a 60-acre park fronting Lake Michigan. It was named for the United States Army’s 42nd Rainbow Division following World War I, and parts of the park and beach dated to 1908 when it was known as Rocky Ledge Beach. All this area was united under the Rainbow Beach name in 1959.
Other South Side parks linked to the Lake Michigan shoreline include Calumet Park, on the far Southeast Side or East Side of the City. It was originally planned and developed in 1904 by the Olmsted Brothers and continued to grow to its current size of 198 acres in the 1930s. The southernmost border of Calumet Park extends to the Illinois-Indiana State Line.Southworks: Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers
The Last Four Miles is a plan that was developed by Friends of the Parks to envision a continuation of lakefront parklands two miles at the far extensions of the city, at both the North and South Sides of Chicago. This plan is a continuation of the plans that were all combined and interwoven ideas captured in Burnham & Bennett’s 1909 “Plan of Chicago,” which has been a guiding principle for Chicago for over a century. Part of the Friends of the Park vision is to convert the brownfields of the former U. S. Steel and Illinois Steel Mills and plants into additional Lakefront recreational lands and facilities. It is a bold plan, but it has not been embraced and funded as it should be since all of our City’s agencies appear strapped for funding. Still, such projects could be a transformational investment in former industrial areas of the Chicago South Side, and also help to provide more protections from an evermore-changing Lake Michigan. These parks not only serve as a recreational aspect for the enjoyment of all, but also as a buffer and sometimes floodplain from the severe waves and actions of the Lake.
With that said, climate change is a reality which is upon us in Chicago. Rising Lake Michigan waters and those of nearby rivers and waterways, coupled with an increase in precipitation, is a reality that we must make accommodations for in the near future. Such issues impact our Chicago Lakefront and parklands, and we should not be building structures upon these areas with a high water table that often flood, as seen in many of our parks. Where there is little to no parkland or land barriers separating the building environment from Lake Michigan, as seen in areas of South Shore and Rogers Park, and portions of Edgewater, the impacts–both financial and emotional on buildings and their residents are substantial. We must plan for the future and both rising temperatures and water levels.
McCormick Place, now known as Lakeside Center at McCormick Place was once known as “the mistake on the Lake.” However, it has the potential to return to an extraordinary Lakefront asset as a year-round fieldhouse and recreational center.Lakeside Center McCormick Place. Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers
The original McCormick Place is recognized as an engineering marvel. It was the largest convention hall in the world. Its structure and shear size pushed the limits of the space frame, its cantilevers and the vastness of its cruciform columns were some of the largest such spans. Its sheer vision was developed by the firm C. F Murphy and its principal, Gene Sommers. Helmut Jahn is also associated with the project. It extended from graduate thesis projects and the concepts and ideals of architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. It was a glass box with a portal to Lake Michigan, separating it from the Arie Crown Theater, the largest theater in the city which anchored its south end.Chicago Lakefront with Lakeside Center: Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers
This building pushed the outer limits of what was possible at the time of its construction, and it was considered as important for its architectural and engineering strides as the city’s superstructures unveiled at the time—including the John Hancock, Sears Tower, Standard Oil Building. This vast structure, once seen as an obstacle to the Chicago lakefront park system when originally constructed in 1960 and rebuilt as a new vision in 1967, has the potential to be Chicago’s largest indoor fieldhouse and cultural center for Bronzeville and the Near South Side. Perhaps this can be rethought as the “Mid-South Cultural Center and Fieldhouse,” the City’s largest indoor recreational facility — open year-round and as an extension of our parks. It could be free to all Chicago residents. With parking and City’s largest theater the Arie Crown, it could once again be a cultural hub not limited just to special engagements and conventions.Lakeside Center at McCormick Place, Photo Credit: Serhii Chrucky
The approximately 25-acre Millennium Park and 25-acre Maggie Daley Park are two of the newest amenities to Chicago’s Lakefront and downtown area. The parks, opened in 2004 and 2012 respectively, were constructed above former and active railroad lands, once part of reclaimed lands from Lake Michigan. Both parks are interactive and wildly popular destinations for both residents and tourists alike. Millennium Park has many artistic as well as passive recreational and cultural aspects like the Pritzker Pavilion (bandshell) and the Harris Theater. They are credited in part with a renaissance of Chicago’s East Loop area and Grant Park, helping to further embellish Chicago’s Cultural Mile. As one can witness, parks can have a tremendous impact even if at times parks vary in their offerings, uses and qualities. For instance, the pastoral qualities of Jackson Park and Washington Park vary widely from the interactive nature of Millennium and Maggie Daley Park, which the latter is more akin at times to a large lakeside playground.Lakeside Center at McCormick Place, Photo Credit: Serhii Chrucky
Both are unique in their planning, vision and design. And both often have different types of visitors flocking to them, yet they each offer vastly differing experiences. One variation is a naturalistic vision for both humans and nature, offering a migratory flyway and to give one the sense and visualization of Chicago in a more natural state, and the others being more activity and entertainment focused, constructed mostly on air rights, with a host of activities, services and amenities located below. These extend from underground passages and walkways, to below-grade parking facilities and commuter train lines, which can also serve a downtown working population, as well as residents and visitors.South Shore Nature Sanctuary. Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers
The Chicago parks are themselves very special and highly celebrated with revered environments containing a variety of grand panoramic spaces, outdoor rooms and vast stretches of Lakefront lands. Some of these parks and spaces contain rigid formal gardens and arrangements with fountains and other features, while others include more naturalistic settings. These parks contain an abundance of extraordinary features including lagoons, islands and native plant species and reflect the once abundant prairies and meadows of our region. Among these artistically arranged settings are open prairies and meadows, beautiful and expansive beaches, and harbors and nature preserves. Historic built environment features of the highest quality, including beautifully crafted museum buildings, conservatories, pavilions, a historic zoo, artistic sculptures, golf courses, pastoral roadways and recreational spaces, frame our panoramic City and skyline in the distance.
With that said, the Lakefront parks have experienced issues in recent years, associated with Chicago’s elected officials and leadership, offering these sometimes as developable lands, which they are not. These areas have been created as greenspaces and parklands, for more than 100 years.
Lack of funding has resulted in our parks starving for resources and in need of substantial repairs. Long-deferred maintenance and straight-up neglect of many aspects of these special features has taken their toll on some of this land. The list of needs through the park system include repairs and in some situations total reconstruction of collapsing buildings, disintegrating paths and often pockmarked trails, underpasses and bridges. Yet, even with a shortage of funds for maintenance and improvement, our City and State offers millions of dollars and incentives for what could be described as pork projects. This is disappointing, as we as a City we are not always taking into account that these greenspaces, parklands, lakefront spaces and trails, and all of the features of the parks and Lakefront have really all been developed and maintained for more than a century and half by the citizens of Chicago—the taxpayers, residents and visitors.
These parks — regardless of their location — are for all of Chicago, and its visitors. The Chicago Lakefront is a remarkable asset for residents and tourists alike. They are not to be squandered. If the desire is to build new structures, additional properties adjacent to these greenspaces should be considered and made to be extensions of this lakefront land. Rather than taking land from the people and these parks, we should be creating new parklands and new campuses of buildings, surrounded by greenspaces. The broad vision should be expanded, not reduced or cast aside as vacant, undeveloped sites.
It was Aaron Montgomery Ward, the famous proprietor of the catalog and retail company Montgomery Ward and Company, who understood this grander vision of protecting the Lakefront lands from development. Ward, in his wisdom, challenged even the Field Museum in its plans to construct its new museum, relocated from Jackson Park within the former Palace of Fine Arts (now the Museum of Science and Industry) to Grant Park, where it was proposed in the middle of the park, now the site of Buckingham Fountain. His court challenges were lengthy and costly, and he often questioned if the general public appreciated his efforts, yet we celebrate this victory today, as it reaffirmed “forever open, clear and free…” This legislation is assumed by many residents to apply to the entire Chicago lakefront, yet that does not hold true. We need additional legislation to apply those principles more broadly from the City limits on the South Side to the North Side, and to protect this extraordinary natural resource.
The Field Museum of Natural History was built on former railroad lands, constructed by the Illinois Central Railroad, in exchange for protecting the young City of Chicago from the sometimes-unpredictable forces of Lake Michigan. Early photos of the Field Museum show railroad tracks crisscrossing the site, which would later become the southernmost portions of Grant Park and the beginnings of Burnham Park and later portions of the Museum Campus. Other museums and buildings were constructed on the footprint of buildings that predated them, from The Art Institute of Chicago, built upon the footprint of the Interstate Exhibition Building from 1871, to our more modern buildings in the park like the Museum of Contemporary Art, constructed on the site of the old Chicago Avenue Armory. The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum was constructed on the site of the old North Shops building in Lincoln Park.
Preservation Chicago supports a commitment to the Chicago Lakefront and its many parks, realizing that this is a very special feature of Chicago and a gift to its citizens which is to last in perpetuity. We continue to be grateful for these amazing parks and the great asset of Lake Michigan, its shoreline mostly “forever open, clear and free for all.”
In the future, the laws protecting the parklands with the “forever open, clear and free to all, without obstruction” regulations in downtown Chicago, specifically Grant Park and elsewhere, should be extended to include protections in perpetuity to the entire Lakefront and Lakefront parks system.
We realize the challenges in managing the vast Lakefront lands, and we want to encourage partnerships realizing the costs associated with this massive endeavor. To that end, we want to encourage the City of Chicago and the Chicago Park District to pursue a national park designation for the entire Chicago Lakefront. Chicago can partner with the National Park Services to continue the legacy of protecting this precious resource for the enjoyment of all. Such an idea could lift and share the burden of maintenance of these sacred grounds, providing much-needed repairs to many of the park buildings and structures.Burnham Pavilion in Jackson Park. Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers
Some structures in Jackson Park, like the Daniel Burnham-designed Comfort Station on South Lake Shore Drive near 67th Street, are in a state of near total collapse. The Comfort Station’s roof is buckling and partially collapsed, with its concrete columns delaminating. Another Comfort Station, to the immediate south of the Museum of Science and Industry, is without a roof. Its massive fieldstone walls have been covered in blue tarps for more than two years. This is a sign of a lack of funding and resources to the parks, the long-term impacts of Tax Increment Financing projects and their unintended consequences to both our schools and our public lands and Lakefront.
The idea of a national park and shared responsibilities for these vast Lakefront parklands would allow for improved maintenance, less privatization of recreational lands and facilities, and access to more funds for new parklands in communities across Chicago. This concept would also free up funds for park programming and services for people of all ages.
The concept of a national park within the City limits of Chicago could be a huge asset, much like the Pullman National Monument on the City’s South Side potentially drawing additional tourism dollars to our City, which in turn supports both small and large businesses alike. National parks have a tremendous amount of visitors each year to different sites across the nation. The Pullman National Monument–a planned industrial development and community important for its links to architecture, planning, labor history, African-American history and Civil Rights, along with railroad history–is expected to draw 300,000 annual visitors when the former Administration and Clock Tower Building opens as a Visitor Center in the coming year. It would be a tremendous resource for Chicago to have two national parks within its borders, recognizing the significance of these public lands fronting one of the world’s largest freshwater resources–Lake Michigan.
Recently, the Indiana Dunes State Park and the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore became one of our most recent national parks. After years of talk and discussion by numerous politicians and scholars, — including United States Senator Paul Douglas, United States Senator Paul Simon, University of Chicago botanist Henry Cowles, and local resident Dorothy R. Buell of the Indiana Dunes Preservation Council — the Indiana Dunes National Park was realized. This national park stretches along 15 miles of the southern shore of Lake Michigan and includes 15,000 acres of beaches, lakefront, dunes and forested area, just 25 miles from Downtown Chicago.Southworks: Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers
Such ideas should be embraced for the Chicago Lakefront National Park. This could also encourage the former South Works-United States Steel Sites, now a vacant brownfield site, to be transformed into an extension of Chicago’s legendary Lakefront parks. It would fulfill a great obligation and long-term vision with the National Park Service and the Federal Government to assist in the clean-up of this former steel mill and industrial site. It would return these now-toxic land into a public amenity for the people of Chicago and its visitors.
Similarly, another toxic site exists near the mouth of the Chicago River, where it meets Lake Michigan, located close to Navy Pier in Downtown Chicago. This area of land has been promised to be developed into parkland for many years, and named in honor of Chicago’s first non-native settler, Jean Baptiste DuSable whose home was once located nearby. Recently, developers of several large high-rise building projects, near this site have been tasked with making this toxic brownfield a public park. However, to date those plans have not materialized. However, a U.S. National Park designation may provide the funds required to realize this vision honoring DuSable.
Preservation Chicago embraces the idea of converting, rather than demolishing, the Lakeside Center at McCormick Place into a Mid-South Side Fieldhouse and Cultural Center. Such a concept would engage this little-used convention center into an indoor extension of the Chicago Lakefront recreational areas and part of the Lakefront Trail. The large glass-walled halls could serve a variety of recreational programs, from indoor running tracks, basketball and tennis courts, and include both indoor and outdoor cafés and restaurant service.Lakeside Center at McCormick Place, Photo Credit: Serhii Chrucky
As an alternative option, the large glass-walled convention halls with views of the Lakefront and Chicago skyline could also be used for large cultural exhibits, much like the aviation museums of a similar scale in Europe. The lower-level convention halls of the base plinth structure of the Lakeside Center could be repurposed for aquatics, perhaps containing Olympic-sized swimming pools, that could overlook Lake Michigan. Adding windows in the brick walls could transform spaces into additional training facilities, gymnasiums, and community rooms.
All of this could be coupled with a reactivated Arie Crown Theater—the City’s largest theater space—to join the building together as a “Mid-South Bronzeville Cultural Center.” The rooftop of the Lakeside Center, measuring the size of three football fields, could contain a running track, outdoor recreational facilities, a green roof and perhaps a solar-cell network to provide power for the facility. The same could also hold true for the plinth and outdoor platform area, adjacent to the large glass-walled convention rooms, and hold cafes and restaurants, health and wellness classes and be considered an extension of the Lakefront parks. Such ideas would foresee this building as perhaps the world’s largest fieldhouse and cultural center, all under one roof, in a building of great architectural significance.Chicago Lakefront with Lakeside Center: Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers
Lakeside Center at McCormick Place, when constructed, was comparable in both its architectural and engineering achievements to the City’s tallest superstructures like the Sears Tower and John Hancock Building. It was designed by the seminal firm of C. F. Murphy, notable for many large buildings including the Chicago Landmark Richard J. Daley Center and Plaza, and under the direction of architect Gene Sommers and Helmut Jahn.
The sheer scale of the building is remarkable. It was and perhaps still remains the largest space-frame structure in the world. It is comparable in design to the “Deutsches Museum Flugwerft Schleissheim Museum” in Germany, the Clin d’Ailes Aviation Museum in Estavayer in Switzerland, Payerne Military Aviation Museum, or the National Military Museum in Soesterberg in the Netherlands
It is a remarkable structure, which has the possibility to be one of Chicago’s greatest Lakefront assets and turning what was a building on the Lakefront for conventions into a year-round fieldhouse and cultural facility—an extension of the Lakefront parks under roof. Such ideas would be revolutionary for the Mid-South/Bronzeville/Douglas Community and perhaps even more popular than Millennium Park. It would be in the vein of the famous Daniel Burnham quote: “Make no little plans!”
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