Chicago’s Historic Preservation Marathon

What is a preservation advocate to do when she registers and trains for the now-cancelled Chicago Marathon?

Create her own marathon, one that showcases history in traditionally disinvested neighborhoods of Chicago.

On Sunday, October 11, Preservation Chicago’s Director of Community Outreach Mary Lu Seidel will embark on a 26.2-mile journey starting on South Michigan Avenue in Roseland and ending at the Central Park Theater in North Lawndale.

This marathon will run past and highlight some extraordinary historic buildings and some great people who are restoring them.

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

Preservation Chicago’s mission is to protect Chicago’s historic built environment, so Seidel chose to focus on a route that highlights the great history on the West and South Sides – especially some places that are currently raising money to restore that history. The route highlights historic buildings, as well as locally owned businesses in the immediate area. If you would like to add your business to this route, please contact Mary Lu Seidel at

(Click the “arrow and square” on upper left for list of sites.  Click “four corners square” on upper right for larger interactive map)

The marathon will start at Old Fashioned Donuts on South Michigan Avenue in Roseland, amongst the rich historic buildings that line that street.

It will head over to South Chicago, stopping off at the Schlitz Tied House at 9401 S. Ewing being restored by owners Laura Coffey and Mike Medina.

It will head north through South Shore, Hyde Park, Jackson Park, going west through West Woodlawn to pass the Washington Park National Bank Building, and then the home of Emmett Till and Mamie-Till Mobley at 6427 S. St. Lawrence – currently under consideration for Landmark designation.

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

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

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

Preservation Chicago works at the city level to carry out its mission. So much of the substantive work happens at the community level. In addition to raising funds for Preservation Chicago, this marathon is promoting some great community partners.

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

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

Please consider coming out to support the run, join Mary Lu Seidel or any part of it, and visit some great historic places. If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Mary Lu Seidel at

Historic buildings, districts, and neighborhoods will be highlighted along the route, along with great groups working to strengthen their communities. Particular focus will be paid to:

1. The East Side Tap/Bamboo Lounge, a former Schlitz tied house at 9401 S. Ewing, being restored by owners Laura Coffey and Mike Medina. It is part of a group of Schlitz tied houses, constructed by the Schlitz Brewery to market their products, and it is one of our newest Chicago Landmarks.

2. Jackson Park and the South Shore Cultural Center, under threat by the Obama Presidential Center and a proposed Tiger Woods golf course. These legacy parks were designed by Olmsted & Vaux, Alfred Caldwell, May McAdams and others, and that the proposed alterations and modifications to the park by the Obama Presidential Center on almost 20 acres of lakefront parkland and the combining of two golf courses into one Tiger Woods Golf Course, would have extreme and adverse effects/impacts and destroy historic landscapes and hundreds of old growth trees.

3. The Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley Home at 6427 S. St. Lawrence in West Woodlawn, currently working through the Chicago Landmark process. Emmett Till was 14 years old in 1955 when he was brutally tortured and then murdered in Mississippi for whistling at a white woman. His mother Mamie Till-Mobley became an extraordinary voice for the Civil Rights movement, sharing Emmett’s story, and shining a bright light on the horrors of racism.

4. The Forum Hall, 318-22 E. 43rd Street, being restored by Urban Juncture and Bernard Loyd. Built in 1897, the structure contains one of the most important assembly/performance halls in the city and possibly the oldest hardwood ballroom dance floor in Chicago. This imposing red brick building played a significant role in Chicago’s cultural scene by hosting performances of music luminaries—including Nat King Cole—and by providing space for civic groups and political meetings.

5. Central Manufacturing District, on Pershing between Ashland and Western in McKinley Park, also threatened by development pressures that favor demolition to restoration. The Central Manufacturing District (CMD) was the first planned industrial district in the nation which experimented in large-scale land development, capitalized on new technologies in construction and power production, and became the national model for the post-World War II industrial park.

6. The Central Park Theater, 3531-39 W. Roosevelt Road, owned by House of Prayer Church of God in Christ, which is teaming up with non-profit partners and professional service providers on a plan to restore the iconic theater. This was the first of the Chicago movie palaces by architects Rapp & Rapp for the theater operators Balaban & Katz. It would lead to scores of movie palaces constructed across Chicago and the nation, in the decades that followed, including the Chicago Theater and the Uptown Theater

Donation/Community Partner Links

Preservation Chicago
Preservation Chicago is committed to strengthening the vibrancy of Chicago’s economy and quality of life by championing our historic built environment. Preservation Chicago protects and revitalizes Chicago’s irreplaceable architecture, neighborhoods and urban green spaces. We influence stakeholders toward creative reuse and preservation through advocacy, outreach, education, and partnership.

Greater Roseland Chamber of Commerce

GRCC plays a supportive role in providing the resources necessary to empower existing businesses as well as aspiring entrepreneurs to strengthen economic vitality within our business community. Greater Roseland Chamber of Commerce (GRCC) is a 501(c)6 non-profit organization established in 2009. GRCC areas of concentration are business, economic and community development. We strive to develop innovative ways to increase commerce through marketing, networking, business development, consultations, mentoring, educational workshops and sponsorship opportunities. 

South Chicago Schlitz Tied House
Laura Coffey and Mike Medina have a vision to restore the Schlitz Tied House at 9401 S. Ewing back to a fully functioning local tavern. At their initiation, the building was designated a Chicago Landmark in 2019. The interior is remarkably intact from its heyday years at the gate of the steel mills. Preservation Chicago commends local residents like Mike and Laura who are doing the right thing with this city’s historic built environment!

Jackson Park Watch
JPW is an Illinois nonprofit organization founded by Hyde Park residents and co-presidents Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid. A virtual organization, it operates within a broad and diverse network of interested individuals and groups. Over 500 individuals receive its periodic Updates, which are widely recirculated to unknown hundreds more.
JPW principles:
* Transparency in decision-making about the Park – no backroom deals
* Meaningful community input on major changes to the Park – no top-down decisions
* Preservation of the Park as a democratic public space – priority to local uses and local users, with
maximum grass, trees, and open space
* Development of one comprehensive plan for the entire Park – forestall its division into
unrelated segments

The Hyde Park Historical Society


The Hyde Park Historical Society is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1975 to record, preserve, and promote public interest in the history of Hyde Park. Its headquarters, located in an 1893 restored cable car station at 5529 S. Lake Park Avenue, Chicago, IL

Blacks in Green™

Blacks In Green (BIG™) serves as a bridge and catalyst among communities and their stakeholders in the design and 

development of green, self-sustaining, mixed-income, walkable-villages in communities owned and populated by African 

Americans. In these places, every household can walk-to-work, walk-to-shop, walk-to-learn, walk-to-play, and neighbor dollars circulate to reduce greenhouse gases.

The Forum Hall
The Forum is located at 318-328 East 43rd Street (adjacent to the CTA station) in Chicago’s historic Bronzeville community. Built in 1897, the structure contains one of the most important assembly/performance halls in the city and possibly the oldest hardwood ballroom dance floor in Chicago. This imposing red brick building played a significant role in Chicago’s cultural scene by hosting performances of music luminaries—including Nat King Cole—and by providing space for civic groups and political meetings.

After the closure of “Forum Hall”, the second floor performance space, in the 1970s, the building fell into disrepair. In 2011, Urban Juncture Inc. stepped in to rescue The Forum from city-ordered emergency demolition. Over the last few years, Urban Juncture has made important structural repairs to the building and has hosted several events (on the wide sidewalk and street just east of the building) in collaboration with partners including IIT Urban Activators, Revival Arts Collective, Bronzeville Retail Initiative , See Potential, O.U.R. Block Club, Chicago Film Archives, South Side Community Arts Center, and Chicago Architecture Foundation. Urban Juncture Inc. has begun the design process for the complete restoration of The Forum, beginning with redevelopment of the first-floor spaces into hospitality and performance/gallery venues.

My Block, My Hood, My City

My Block, My Hood, My City provides underprivileged youth with an awareness of the world and opportunities beyond their neighborhood. We take students on explorations
focused on STEM, Arts & Culture, Citizenry & Volunteerism, Health, Community Development, Culinary Arts, and Entrepreneurism.
Core Values
* Interconnectivity
* Empathy
* Hope
* Civic Responsibility

Neighbors for Environmental Justice
Neighbors for Environmental Justice (N4EJ) is a grassroots local group formed after the April 25, 2018 community meeting on MAT Asphalt. N4EJ is all about trying to maintain and improve the health and environment on the Southwest Side, including but not limited to McKinley Park, Brighton Park, Bridgeport, Back of the Yards, and Little Village. 

“We formed because of concerns with how the MAT Asphalt plant was brought to our community without notification, input, or benefits. We believe that MAT Asphalt will have a negative impact on our community including hurting residents health and McKinley Park. We are also worried about other possible large developments that could be coming to the industrial corridor in the future. As a group we are learning about what we can do to protect ourselves as a community and to make sure a development like MAT Asphalt never comes without community notification and input again.”

Little Village Environmental Justice Organization


After more than 25 years working for environmental justice 

in Little Village, LVEJO continues to organize for a healthier community in Little Village and beyond. Building upon the successful clean power, public transit, and open space campaigns LVEJO remains committed to organizing with those most impacted by industrialization and climate change.

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless

Since 1980, the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless has had a clear mission: “We organize and advocate to prevent and end homelessness, because we believe housing is a human right in a just society.” 

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“These organizations work tirelessly everyday to create equitable and healthy communities,” said Seidel.

“I’ve been training all year for the Chicago Marathon,” said Seidel. “When it was cancelled, and I was offered the opportunity to roll over my registration to 2021? There’s no way I’m ever going to do anything like this again!”

That’s when the idea for a historic preservation marathon came about. With the nation in turmoil over equity for people and communities of color, it made sense to take a marathon run to highlight all the beauty that is Chicago’s South and West Side communities – especially communities in which Preservation Chicago has been an active partner.

Seidel will kick off her run in front of Old Fashioned Donuts at 11248 S. Michigan Avenue in Roseland at 6 a.m. on Sunday, October 11. The route will go through South Chicago, South Shore, Hyde Park, Woodlawn, West Woodlawn, Bronzeville, Canaryville, Bridgeport, McKinley Park, and North Lawndale.

Preservation Chicago, a non-profit founded in 2001, works with local residents, business owners and stakeholders to protect and revitalize Chicago’s irreplaceable architecture, neighborhoods and urban spaces. Through advocacy, education and policy recommendations, the organization is committed to strengthening the vibrancy of Chicago’s economy and quality of life by championing our historic built environment.

1. Points of interest along the marathon route
2. Shops, cafes and restaurants along the marathon route