For over a decade, Preservation Chicago has worked to protect the city’s historic icons of architecture as well as its original urban centers and neighborhoods. The advocacy group was founded in 2000 and has since formed various partnerships, lobbied for public policy changes, and hosted educational events, all aimed at preserving original Chicago architecture.
To generate awareness, the group publishes an annual list, titled “Chicago’s 7,” that profiles seven buildings or historic areas that it considers “endangered.”
“We are challenged every year, every month, every week with the demolition of our historic architecture,” said Jonathan Fine, executive director of Preservation Chicago. “I don’t think it’s a fair statement to say that Chicago doesn’t care about its architecture… Chicago should do a better job.”
Topping the 2013 list is the 133-year-old St. James Church, for which the Archdiocese of Chicago currently holds a demolition permit. The church was designed by Patrick Keely, who also designed the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at the University of Notre Dame.
Also on the list are the Lathrop Homes, which were built during the Great Depression and, according to Fine, are “one of the finest examples of public housing, perhaps in the country.” The Chicago Housing Authority is currently reviewing a number of possibilities for this site, including the option to reuse the buildings, rather than demolishing them.
While not all buildings on the list face imminent demolition, both the Hotel Guyon and the Century & Consumers Buildings could be warring for their future.
The Hotel Guyon was completed in 1928 and appears on the National Register of Historic Places, but is now in demolition court. Meanwhile, the Century & Consumers Buildings, completed between 1913 and 1916, are property of the Federal Government and, as there are no current plans for reuse, they could fall prey to future redevelopment.
Rounding out the 2013 list are the Allstate Building, completed in 1949; the State Bank of Clearing, which opened in 1913 and was designed by Chicago architect Harry Weese; and the Medic Building, another example of art deco architecture, completed in 1929. All of these are vacant, but there are no specific plans in place for their reuse or demolition.
In their mission to preserve these historic pieces of Chicago real estate, representatives of Preservation Chicago are hoping that the city will show some “imagination” in their approach to these structures and their futures.
Debbie Dodge is a Preservation board member who says simply, “Preservation is a doorway to new things, a pathway to creating something new and beautiful.”
Clearly, she hopes these buildings remain a part of all that makes Chicago beautiful.