The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation has been a proud funder of Landmarks Illinois for thirty years, and in 2021, the organization celebrates its 50th anniversary. To mark the occasion Landmarks Illinois held a virtual event, 50Forward, and dedicated it to 20 “Landmarks Illinois Influencers” whose longstanding preservation efforts continue to make a significant impact on historic preservation throughout the state.
Landmarks Illinois was founded in 1971 in an effort to save the Adler & Sullivan-designed Chicago Stock Exchange building located at 30 North LaSalle Street. At the time, buildings designed in the Chicago School of Architecture style were endangered across the Loop, and very few had either landmark status or had been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Though the Chicago Stock Exchange building was demolished, this endeavor of preservation by an all-volunteer group concerned about the Loop’s historic architecture and Chicago’s legacy as the birthplace of American architecture, began what would be the first coordinated voice for preservationists in Chicago.
Today, Landmarks Illinois continues as a statewide grassroots advocacy organization with 9 staff members, 34 board members, and 2,500 members. As a primary resource and leading voice for Illinois preservation, the organization works with local community advocates to save places, and partners with state legislators and local officials to enact legislation and ordinances to support them. It connects preservation professionals such as architects, engineers, and historic advisors, and provides funding for adaptive reuse and restoration projects. Since its founding, Landmarks Illinois has saved countless architectural and historic treasures throughout the state, and has established a variety of programs to facilitate, promote, and educate people about historic preservation.
In preparation of its 50th anniversary, Landmarks Illinois developed a 30-member Anniversary Task Force to begin planning for the future of the organization and the preservation movement in Illinois. Landmarks Illinois’ future vision includes breaking down systems of inequities within preservation practices to ensure that work contributes to more equitable communities, has accessible, relevant tools to build place-based solutions which address community challenges, and provides more supportive and affordable housing where it is needed.
“Landmarks Illinois considered our 50th anniversary to be a mandate for change,” comments President and CEO Bonnie McDonald. “We are embracing and modeling new ideas for preservation, and trying to change our field in the process, by centering our actions around confronting racism, reinforcing racial, environmental and economic justice, fighting climate change and ensuring true history is told. We thank the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation for being a steadfast partner in our development and the exploration of an expanded definition for preservation.”