THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT

Chicago’s 7 Most Endangered Places

April, 2022
Interior of Central Park Theatre in Chicago, Illinois
Central Park Theatre.Photo credit: Eric Allix Rogers

On March 9, Preservation Chicago announced its 2022 Chicago 7, its list of the most endangered places in the city. Since 2003, the Chicago 7 Most Endangered program has identified imminently threatened historic buildings and other public assets in Chicago to elevate awareness, mobilize stakeholder support, and develop preservation solutions. This year’s list contains buildings and landscapes from across the city. 

The Century and Consumers Buildings, located on the west side of State Street south of Adams adjacent to the Dirksen Federal Building, are the subject of a $52 million appropriation in the Federal Infrastructure Bill earmarked for demolition of both buildings. This follows the 2019 cancellation by the Lightfoot administration of a $141 million rehabilitation and reuse of the buildings. The loss of these buildings designed by Holabird & Roche and Jenney, Mundie & Jensen is unnecessary and will harm the State Street Corridor, which would greatly benefit from the 429 apartment units that were proposed under the rehabilitation.


Century And Consumers Buildings

Century And Consumers Buildings. Photo credit: Eric Allix Rogers

The Chicago 7 included three public housing sites: Cabrini Rowhouses, Lathrop Homes – South Campus, and two, mid-century modern non-residential buildings located at Altgeld Gardens. Only 140 of 586 units in the rowhouses have been rehabilitated. The Lathrop Homes-South Campus awaits rehabilitation and reuse. The deterioration of the buildings continues while the timing of future phases of the overall redevelopment remains elusive. The Altgeld Gardens Keck & Keck designed buildings, the Shop Building and School Building C are in desperate need of rehabilitation. The buildings have been vacant for more than three decades.

Church buildings are often a source of concern as neighborhoods change and congregants move to other neighborhoods or the suburbs. St. Martin de Tours, located at 5848 South Princeton on Chicago’s south side was designed by architect Henry Schlacks for a fledgling German Catholic parish in Englewood. The church originally served German immigrants and then became a thriving Black parish until its closing in 1989. After years of deferred maintenance and closure, St. Martin de Tours has suffered significant deterioration. Without intervention, the church will continue to deteriorate. Preservation Chicago offers an alternative use as a creative incubator space housing arts education, exhibitions, and performance.

Modernist structures are often overlooked in cultural and historic resources surveys. The Chicago 7 listing of the Peterson Avenue Mid-century Modern District, located along a two mile stretch from North Park to West Ridge along Peterson Avenue, seeks to raise awareness about our mid-20th century heritage. This wonderful collection of mid-century modern buildings is threatened by neglect, abandonment, unsympathetic alterations, and demolition, as evidenced by the recent demolition of the Sapphire Building at 2800 West Peterson. Preservation Chicago believes some of these issues could be addressed with the creation of a Mid-Century Modern District encompassing buildings along Peterson, California, and Lincoln Avenues.

Promontory Point, located on the lakefront between 54th and 56th Streets, is part of the Alfred Caldwell-designed park. Plans by the City of Chicago and the Chicago Park District call for replacement of the natural limestone lakeshore with concrete. This would not only destroy the historic stepstone revetment, but also be inconsistent with the natural aesthetic of the park’s design. While most recognize something needs to be done to protect the lakeshore, a preservation solution would involve repair and replacement of the existing limestone revetment instead of wholesale demolition.

On the west side, the Rapp & Rapp designed Central Park Theater, located at 3535 West Roosevelt Road, was opened in 1917 by theater developer Balaban & Katz. Closed in 1971 as a movie house, it has been reused by the House of Prayer Church of God in Christ congregation since that time. Repair needs are growing while the church’s congregation is dwindling. The community envisions the building as a community center with concerts, cultural tenants, and retail uses. Preservation Chicago hopes the Chicago 7 listing can help to bring resources to the community.

The listing of North DuSable Lake Shore Drive hopes to raise awareness and make for better planning for the future of this important thoroughfare. Originally designed as a boulevard parkway, it has steadily evolved into a high-speed roadway more reminiscent of a highway. Preservation Chicago is advocating a more sensitive and holistic approach to preserving and rebuilding or repairing bridges and underpasses while making travel on the roadway a more pleasurable experience.

The Moody Triangle involves the block bounded by North Avenue on the south, Clark Street on the east, and LaSalle Drive on the west and north in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. The block includes two mid-century modern gems – the former North Federal Savings Bank (1961), now known as the Wintrust Bank Building and the Archway Standard Oil Station (1971), now a BP Service Station. It also includes the Moody Memorial Church completed in 1925 to the plans of John Fugard. According to Preservation Chicago, all three of these buildings are threatened with demolition for a new development by Fern Hill Development. It is hoped the listing will bring attention to this important block so alternatives to demolition can be thoroughly examined.

The Chicago 7 is an important program by Preservation Chicago to raise awareness of buildings, building types, and neighborhoods throughout the city. It is also evidence of a long and winding road to a solution that includes neighborhood residents, government officials, community organizations, sympathetic owners and developers, and other organizations such as Landmarks Illinois. None of the successes come in a vacuum and instead require lots of work beyond the endangered building listing.

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