Success Stories

  • Ukrainian Village Landmark District Extension – Three times the charm

    It took three different designations over the course of 5 years, but now the vast majority of Ukrainian Village is a protected historic landmark district.
    As is often the case, the creation of this landmark district was prompted by numerous teardowns that threatened the architectural character of the neighborhood. Former Thirty Second Ward Alderman Ted Matlak held two well-attended community meetings in 2000 to discuss the idea of landmarking the entire neighborhood. After gauging community support and assessing the area most vulnerable to demolition, the blocks bounded by Damen to Leavitt and Haddon to Cortez were designated a landmark district in December of 2002.
    Unfortunately, in 2004, when more brick cottages were demolished, Alderman Matlak supported the extension of the district to encompass the 2000 through 2300 blocks of West Walton, doubling the size of the original district. This second extension became law in 2005.

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  • Scherer Building: 1201 N. State – Preservation Chicago’s First Triumph

    In 1886, pharmacist Andrew Scherer acted as the developer of a stunning building at the northeast corner of State and Division Streets, which would stand at the gateway to the brand-new Gold Coast. The battle to preserve this important corner building would be Preservation Chicago’s first battle and its first success.
    In 2001, coinciding with the birth of Preservation Chicago, the organization learned that a plan for a new CVS pharmacy would demolish this and two adjacent historic buildings on the site. Although told by city officials that the demolition plan was unstoppable, the group forged ahead making the Scherer Building its first major preservation effort as a formal organization.
    Under the banner of the “Vanishing Urban Corner” campaign, Preservation Chicago took to the streets and organized a massive and unrelenting petitioning drive to save the Scherer Building. Many longtime local residents joined them on the streets of the Near North Side. Ultimately, 2,552 signatures were obtained opposing the demolition.

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  • 441 Surf – The final straw that rescued 3 historic blocks of SE Lakeview

    Although redevelopment had already begun in Lakeview by the mid-1990’s, it seemed that the densely-developed blocks of Surf and Pine Grove east of Broadway would be spared the tear-down frenzy of the mid-2000’s. And then, at a South East Lake View Neighbors community meeting in April of 2006, it was announcement that the stately QueenAnne home at 441 Surf was in the crosshairs. Once demolished, it was to be replaced by a 12-unit condo complex.

    441 Surf was the oldest building and only single-family home left in the immediate area. Furthermore, the surrounding historical blocks had remained perfectly intact, seemingly impervious to the bulldozer.
    Because 441 Surf was rated Orange, the 90-day Demolition Delay ordinance was triggered. But unfortunately, 441 Surf did not meet the criteria for an individual landmark designation. A plan had to be enacted – and fast.

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  • Demolition Delay Ordinance

    Although the battle to save the Mercantile Exchange Building was lost, the outrage that was caused by its destruction finally forced reform at City Hall.
    For years before the Mercantile Exchange battle erupted, preservationist and other concerned citizens had been maddened by the continued loss of historic buildings throughout the city, and frustrated by the inability to obtain information with regards to pending demolitions.
    However, that all changed in the spring of 2002 when a demolition permit was issued for the Mercantile Exchange Building, formerly located at the NW corner of Franklin and Washington Streets.
    Preservation Chicago quickly sprung into action by creating a public awareness campaign called Save the Merc. Consisting of a series of street demonstrations and picket rallies throughout the summer and fall of 2002.

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  • Newport Landmark District – 11th hour land swap saved historic streetscape

    Tipped off to the impending demolition of 823 W. Newport in the newport_lgLakeview neighborhood, Preservation Chicagopartnered with surrounding residents to organize a Stop the Demolition campaign of the stately 1890’s Victorian three-flat. Unlike other Lakeview blocks, many of which had already been marred by inappropriate development, this particular stretch of Newport had remained architecturally pristine. However, it had become clear to the residents of the block that once one demolition was allowed to occur, more demolitions would follow.Preservation Chicago advised that, irrespective of the outcome of the battle to preserve 823 W. Newport, it was imperative that the rest of the block be protected from future demolitions.
    To that end, Preservation Chicago, the local community group Newport Neighbors, and others who lived on the street worked together to inform surrounding property owners about the benefits of creating a landmark district.

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  • St. Gelasius Church: 64th and Woodlawn – No more vacant lots!

    In July of 2003 utility workers, thwarted from shutting off the utilities by an industrious nun who refused them access, gave Woodlawn residents st-glasiustheir first clue that the demolition of St. Gelasius Church was imminent. The church’s architect, Henry J. Schlacks, was well known to Preservation Chicago because he had also designed St. Boniface Church, which the organization was also battling to preserve.
    Because St. Gelasius, built in 1923, was rated Orange, questions arose as to why a public notice of its demolition was not posted on the city web site, as required by law. Citing irregularities in the permit application, the city immediately shut down the demolition process.
    Following that action, an awareness campaign to stop the demolition began when community activists Todd and Jenny Martin organized their neighbors, who did not relish having another vacant lot in their Woodlawn neighborhood. In late August of 2003, a moving and powerful rally was held on the steps of St. Gelasius Church. Organized by Preservation Chicago and the Woodlawn Coalition to Save St. Gelasius, the keynote speaker was then-20th Ward Alderman Arenda Troutman, who pledged to “lay down in front of the bulldozer” to save the historic church.

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  • Chicago Printed String Building: Logan and Elston – Pulled from the jaws of the wrecker ball

    On Election morning March 16, 2004, bulldozers began to illegally tear chicago-printed-string-company-buildinginto the back of the Orange Rated Chicago Printed String Company Building located at the corner of Logan Boulevard and Elston Avenue. But for the quick action of preservation activist Ward Miller, who happened to be driving by at the time, the building would have been destroyed. And, but for the leadership of then First Ward Alderman Manny Flores, the building would never have been adaptively converted to a retail development.
    Constructed in phases between 1928 and 1941, the Chicago Printed String Company Building was designed by architect Alfred Alschuler for a company that manufactured colorful cotton tying tape used for bakery packages and candy boxes. Alschuler was one of the most prominent architects in Chicago whose works include the London Guarantee Building, K.A.M. Synagogue and the Goldblatt Brothers Department Store, all designated Chicago landmarks.

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  • Metropolitan (Apostolic) Community Church: 41st and King Dr. – Too much history to squander

    This stunning church, constructed in 1890 by architect John Turner Long, had hosted many African-metropolitan-apostolistic-community-churchAmerican historic events, including early meetings led by A. Philip Randolph to organize the Pullman Porters Union. Famous visitors to the church have included Eleanor Roosevelt, Paul Robeson and Thurgood Marshall. Adding to its rich history is the fact that Metropolitan (Apostolic) Community Church has a commanding presence on Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, with a powerful Romanesque design and distinctive reddish-brown stonework.
    On August 25, 2001, Preservation Chicago board member Mike Moran learned from a former parishioner that the church would soon be demolished. Preservation Chicago immediately contacted all relevant city officials asking for their cooperation in efforts to save the church. Preservation Chicago also contacted several longtime members of the church and suggested that a group be formed that would oppose demolition. In a meeting held in early September of 2001, six key persons came together and declared themselves the “Coalition to Save the Met,” a group that would combine the efforts of current church members, former church members, and citywide preservationists.

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  • East Village Landmark District – An end to the destruction of a community

    On January 11, 2006, after more than 2 years of study, 18 official meetingeast-villages, and countless hours of sometimes contentious community debate, the City Council granted Landmark designation to the last remaining historic blocks left in the East Village.
    Preservation Chicago listed the East Village neighborhood on its 7 Most Threatened Buildings list for 2003, bringing attention to an issue that had been building for years, but had reached a boiling point in early 2003.
    Dating from before the Great Fire of 1871, East Village, located on Chicago’s near west side, served as a port of entry for the waves of European immigrants who flooded in to Chicago during the late 19th century and early 20th Centuries. Hispanics and Polish refugees of WWII followed mid-century. Unfortunately, the neighborhood began a slow decline that reached its nadir in the 1970’s as businesses closed up, crime flourished, and residents fled to the suburbs.

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  • Roberts Temple Church of God: 4021 S. State – Civil Rights monument now part of history

    The Montgomery bus boycott, the integration of Little Rock Central High School and Bloody Sunday in Selma. The names of these cities, and many others, will forever be associated with the events that helped change America permanently, and for the better.
    Unfortunately, one city has been conspicuously absent from this important list. However, in March of 2006, the Chicago City Council rectified that omission by declaring the Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ a city Landmark, elevating the building, as well as Chicago, to its rightful place in modern civil rights history. Preservation Chicago is pleased to have helped facilitate this important designation by working with the church congregation and its pastor to attain their consent for Landmarking their church.
    In late August of 1955, Mamie Till Bradley sent her 14 year old son Emmett to visit relatives in Money, Mississippi. Mississippi, like the rest of the Jim Crow south, enforced a strict code of social behavior between blacks and whites.

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  • 444 N. LaSalle, Photo Credit by Preservation Chicago

    The Vesemen Building: 444 North LaSalle Street – One of a kind architectural orphan saved

    By 2005, it became quite apparent that the days of the tiny little Art Deco 444-n_-lasallegem located at 444 North LaSalle were numbered. Although the building was a vital part of the downtown streetscape, its diminutive two stories sat between two giant parking lots spelling certain doom as soon as the inevitable redevelopment plan emerged for the entire parcel.
    Preservation Chicago took action by listing the building as one of its 7 Most Threatened structures that same year, bringing its perilous fate citywide attention. The organization then appealed directly to then-Alderman Burt Natarus (42nd) to preserve the building based on its truly unique architecture.
    Designed by George F. Lovdall in 1930, 444 N. LaSalle is an integral part of the pedestrian-scaled, commercially-oriented Lower River North district. It enlivens the streetscape through its intricately detailed polychromatic terracotta in hues of gold, navy, pink and green, making it one of downtown’s most colorful façades.

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  • Arlington-Deming Landmark District – A battle well worth the fight

    First the Geneva Cottage was demolished. Replacing it, and all of its lush arlington-deming-004green space, was a giant house. Then in the summer of 2004, it was announced that Arlington House, a popular youth hostel located in a stately Georgian edifice would be demolished for more luxury housing. The battle for the preservation of the Arlington-Deming neighborhood began.
    However, in order to save Arlington House and, at the same time, legally stop the senseless demolition of other historic buildings in the immediate area, it was necessary to create a landmark district.
    The effort to create that district began immediately through the founding of Arlington-Deming Neighbors, a grass roots group established by concerned residents and owners, with early assistance from Preservation Chicago, to move preservation forward. Community meetings were convened in the summer of 2004 and, in spite of the threat of a lawsuit, anonymous mailings full of factual errors, a concerted misinformation campaign, and doctored public opinion ballots, the process continued.

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  • The Giles Calumet District – Expanding the boundaries of history

    The Giles Calumet Landmark District, exemplified by a series of attached row houses became a protected historic district on July 29, 2009. The action culminated several years of active grass roots lobbying on the part of area residents to obtain landmark status for their community, which is generally bounded by 37th Street to the north, Pershing Road to the south, King Drive to the east, and Cottage Grove to the west. However, it was the support that the community received from Alderman Pat Dowell (3rd) that finally made the district and its accompanying protection a reality.
    In the 1880’s and 90’s, the area from 31st Street to 39th Street on Calumet, Giles and Prairie evolved into a distinct urban enclave. Residents represented an elite class who helped fuel Chicago’s economic growth and allowed them to build fine homes in a variety of architectural styles including Italianate, Romanesque, Queen Anne, and Flemish Revival. Throughout the neighborhood’s history, a substantial African-American community co-existed with middle and upper class whites.

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  • Lake Shore Athletic Club: 850 Lake Shore Drive – A battle of Olympian proportions

    If you have ever wondered how buildings get preserved in Chicago, the lsac2answer is political leadership. Case in point is the successful effort that saved the former Lake Shore Athletic Club from almost certain destruction.
    Located at 850 North Lake Shore Drive and opened in 1927, the LSAC was designed by Jarvis Hunt. The first five stories of the Georgian exterior are faced in terra cotta, exhibiting eye-catching ornamentation that stands in striking contrast to the neighboring Mies Van Der Rohe buildings across the street. Early on, the club established itself as a major center for athletic activities. In fact, Olympic trials for the 1928 Olympics were held at the club. Johnny Weissmuller (“Tarzan” in the movies) participated in these trials and swam in a number of other swimming matches held at the club.
    The building was renamed the Lake Shore Center in 1977 when it was acquired by Northwestern University for use as graduate housing. However, after 30 years of deferred maintenance, Northwestern University vacated the structure in 2007 in anticipation of its eventual demolition for condominium redevelopment.

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  • Milwaukee Avenue Commercial District – Safe from the wrecker ball

    Once a diagonal Indian path and early toll road, this vibrant, multi-faceted stretch of Milwaukee Avenue is one of the precious few Chicago neighborhood commercial districts that remains largely intact. It encompasses 50 structures that have earned a CHRS (Chicago Historic Resources Survey) rating, including multiple Orange-Rated buildings. The good news is that it is now a designated Historic Landmark District.
    Known as “the immigrants’ path to prosperity,” Milwaukee Ave was a major contributor to the establishment and evolution of Chicago. Initially, Native Americans and early settlers traveled down the road into the heart of the city to sell their goods and services. As the city expanded, people moved up the Avenue as they climbed the economic ladder. Reflecting the Wicker Park District’s heritage of German and Norwegian settlers and the influences of the Jews and Poles that followed, the street is a rich mosaic of structures that served the ever-changing needs of the decades beginning in the mid 1800s. Businesses may have changed from cloak tailors to boutiques and from feed stores to neighborhood eateries and specialty shops, but it has remained the commercial heart of Wicker Park.

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  • American Book Company Building: 320-330 E. Cermak – Ready for Reuse

    Although it remains vacant and awaits a redevelopment plan, the 2_american_bookAmerican Book Company building is protected with a landmark designation, thanks to the advocacy ofPreservation Chicago and the action taken by 2nd Ward Alderman Robert Fioretti.
    However, back in 2008, when Preservation Chicago identified it as one of its 7 Most Threatened buildings, its fate was not so assured. At that time, a local development company announced its intention to construct a new hotel complex on the 3.7 acre site which ensured demolition for the American Book Company building. That proposed project has since been shelved.
    The handsome brick building, which is located at the corner of Cermak Road and Calumet Avenue, was constructed in 1912 specifically for the American Book Company. At that time, American Book was the leading publisher of textbooks. American occupied the site for several decades with their longtime neighbor, R. R. Donnelly & Sons being the most recent occupant.

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  • Cook County Hospital: 1825 W. Harrison Street – New life for a grand old dame

    The prognosis looks good for the grand old dame of Harrison Street. Oncook-county-hospital March 2, 2010, the Construction Committee of the Cook County Board voted 6-0 to approve the adaptive reuse of the historic Cook County Hospital Building.
    This action most likely ends a decade-long battle to preserve the former hospital building. The full county board affirmed the recommendation in a 17-0 vote in a session that immediately followed the committee meeting.
    Preservation Chicago kicked off its preservation effort at an April 2003 press conference, which featured author Studs Terkel.
    A massive grass roots public awareness and advocacy campaign began that spring and continued through 2004, culminating in the collection of over 13,000 petition signatures in favor of preservation, which were then delivered to then-county board president John Stroger.

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  • Richard Nickel Studio: 1810 W. Cortland – Studio of preservation pioneer landmarked

    At its September 3, 2009 meeting, and after almost two hours o3_richard_nickel_housef impassioned testimony, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks overruled a staff recommendation and voted 7 to 3 to landmark the Richard Nickel House, located at 1810 W. Cortland.
    Until his death in 1972, it served as his base for photography and salvage operations, where he documented the work of the legendary architecture firm of Adler & Sullivan, whose legacy was rapidly being lost to demolition. Nickel had combined the two floors into a single unit with living spaces in the storefront. With the assistance of his friend, architect John Vinci, Nickel redesigned the rear wall to incorporate a series of tall, narrow doors. In November 1971, Nickel wrote of the project, “I’d pull out except I’m really happy with the struggle…” Six months later he was killed while salvaging ornament from inside Adler & Sullivan’s Stock Exchange building.

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  • St. Boniface Church: Noble and Chestnut – 11 year battle to save church ends in a compromise

    The Battle to preserve the St. Boniface church campus began in earnest on June 1, 1999 when community residents, former parishioners and st_bonified-church-exteriorpreservationists gathered for a candle light vigil in front of the long-abandoned structures. Organized jointly by the East Village Association and former parishioner and neighbor Kevin Stawiarski, the event was spurred by the announcement that the buildings were to be demolished.
    Although the efforts to preserve St. Boniface predated the creation ofPreservation Chicago, it was here that Jonathan Fine, then president of the East Village Association, met Mike Moran. They together would ultimately cofound Preservation Chicago in 2001 based on this preservation effort.
    The Romanesque Revival style church, school, and rectory were built between 1896 and1904 and designed by architect Henry J. Schlacks, who gained the sobriquet “the master of Catholic church architecture in Chicago.

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