First the Geneva Cottage was demolished. Replacing it, and all of its lush green 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. Alderman Vi Daley (43rd), who successfully landmarked other districts in her ward, worked closely with the community to ensure that stakeholder participation was comprehensive and transparent.
Chicago’s preservationists fought a baptism by fire in Arlington-Deming with the struggle to preserve the 124 buildings between Fullerton, Clark, Deming, and Orchard stretching out for more than three years and played out in the midst of continuing demolition and a contentious aldermanic election.
Despite the challenges, however, the effort ultimately succeeded. On September 27, 2007 the Arlington-Deming District became the 48th landmark district in Chicago. However, it would not have come to fruition without the partnership between Preservation Chicago and Arlington Deming Neighbors coupled with the unwavering support of Alderman Daley, the staff and commissioners of the Commission on Chicago Landmarks, Landmarks Illinois, Park West Community Association and the Mid-North Association.
But ultimately, it was the community itself that had the vision and energy to take the action necessary to protect their homes and their community for the future. The Arlington-Deming district now abuts the Arlington and Roslyn and Mid-North Landmark Districts creating one of the largest contiguous expanses of landmarked buildings in Chicago.