Thompson Center Tops 2017 Endangered Places List

Landmarks Illinois is out with its annual list of the most endangered places in the Land of Lincoln.  At the top of the list is a state office building that Chicagoans love to hate: The Thompson Center (100 West Randolph Street).

The Thompson Center’s beauty is most certainly in the eye of the beholder.  Some find it a fine example of post-modern deconstructionism.  Others think it’s a garish display of outdated aesthetics.  What everyone can agree on, however, is that it’s in sad shape physically.  A situation made worse by its most recent occupant: The State of Illinois, which treated it like a rented mule.

The Thompson Center

The Thompson Center

Now the governor wants to sell the building, spread its bureaucrats around town, and replace the glass drum with a 100+ story skyscraper.  To Landmarks Illinois, that’s a damned shame.

The state’s search for revenue is understandable, but posing demolition as part of a sale devalues the civic and cultural advances displayed in Helmut Jahn’s groundbreaking Post-Modern design and the opportunities for a development that could integrate the building.

The Thompson Center’s voluminous atrium is reminiscent of monumental and bygone public spaces. At the time of its opening in 1985, the Chicago Tribune’s architectural critic Paul Gapp wrote, “What we did not have in Chicago until Jahn designed the center was a contemporary vertical space of such splendid and theatrical dimensions.” Regarding the Center’s curved glass facades, which provide a break in the streetscape of surrounding linear office towers, Gapp wrote, “In a city where architects so long worshiped the 90-degree angle and black curtain walls, the center’s asymmetry and multicolored skin appear as almost impudent nose-thumbing at the past.”

Chicago is also the home of other endangered buildings and places:

  • The O’Hare Rotunda Building
  • The Michael Reese Hospital Singer Pavilion
  • Route 66

The remainder are downstate:

  • Ryan’s Round Barn, McHenry County
  • McKee House, Lombard
  • Norway Temperance Hall, Norway
  • Historic bridges, Statewide
  • World War I monuments, Statewide

For more on all of the 2017 Endangered Buildings, see this web page.

Landmarks Illinois announces 2017 Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois

SPRINGFIELD, IL – Landmarks Illinois today announced its 2017 Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois. Bonnie McDonald, President and CEO of Landmarks Illinois, named the historic sites on this year’s list at a press conference in Springfield.

Launched in 1995, Landmarks Illinois’ Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois list calls attention to threatened historic sites in need of assistance in the form of responsible stewardship, creative reuse plans and/or advances in public policy. This year’s list includes a number of city-, county- and state-owned structures, demonstrating the challenges local and state governments face to maintain and invest in their real estate and infrastructure at a time when funding is limited budget cuts continue. Not all of the sites on our 2017 Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois list are publically owned, but many still rely on important government programs for funding or to encourage private investment.

“This year’s most endangered list includes a variety of iconic places that define our Illinois communities and our state’s heritage,” said Bonnie McDonald, President & CEO of Landmarks Illinois. “From historic bridges, to a round barn, to mid-century modern buildings, the sites on our 2017 Most Endangered list are wide-ranging and demonstrate the need for financial incentives and private-public partnerships. Landmarks Illinois stands ready to help all of these historic properties find productive and creative reuse opportunities.”

The 2017 Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois includes 10 listings, including three thematic listings. They are, in alphabetical order by location:

James R. Thompson Center, Chicago, Cook County
This Helmut Jahn-designed office building in the Loop – originally the State of Illinois Building – houses Illinois state government offices, a transit station and retail space. However, current legislation is calling for the state to sell the center, leaving its future uncertain. (Read more)

O’Hare Rotunda Building, Chicago, Cook County
The mid-century building designed by Gertrude Kerbis now serves as a vestibule to Terminal 3’s Concourse G. While currently in use, it could be vulnerable in the future as major changes and upgrades are planned at O’Hare. (Read more)

Singer Pavilion, Chicago, Cook County
The last remaining building of the Michael Reese Hospital complex, which was demolished by the city following the lost Olympic bid, is sitting vacant on Chicago’s South Side. Redevelopment of the campus is pending and reuse of the Loebl, Scholssma n, and Bennett-designed Singer Pavilion is uncertain. (Read more)

Ryan’s Round Barn, Johnson-Sauk Trail State Recreation Area, Henry County
This round barn built in 1910 and listed in the National Register of Historic Places has a failing roof and a growing list of necessary repairs, increasing in price with each year’s delay. It is owned by the State of Illinois, Department of Natural Resources, and as a result of the budget crisis, critical funding to repair and maintain the barn has been put on hold indefinitely. (Read more)

McKee House, Lombard, DuPage County
Constructed during the Federal Works Progress Administration for the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, the Colonial Revival home formerly served as a forest preserve headquarters and residence for its superintendent. Today, the Forest Preserve District is considering demolition of the building despite studies showing its ability to be rehabilitated. (Read more)

Norway Temperance Hall, Norway, LaSalle County
This small hall in unincorporated Norway tells the story of the temperance movement as part of the Norwegian-American experience. Community members and partner organizations want to purchase the building, which is in need of significant repair, suffering from water infiltration, a shifting foundation and cracking walls. (Read more)

Federal Historic Tax Credit, Statewide
Current federal tax reform legislation is putting this vital incentive for reuse and rehabilitation of historic buildings in Illinois and the nation at risk. Specifically, historic preservation projects in Belleville (Belleville Hotel), Danville (Bresee Tower), Peoria (Chic Manufacturing Building) and Rockford (Ziock Building) are all threatened if the Federal Historic Tax Credit is not retained. (Read more)

Historic Bridges, Statewide
Ongoing investment in our state’s infrastructure, and especially our historic bridges, remains a challenge. Funding is increasingly used for demolition or replacement instead of rehabilitation. Specifically, historic bridges in Long Grove (Lake County), Maeystown (Monroe County) and St. Francisville (Lawrence County) are at risk if repairs are not made. (Read more)

Route 66, Statewide
The 90-year-old, 2,400-mile highway from Chicago to Los Angeles is an economic force in Illinois tourism. While many historic sites, motels and restaurants along Illinois’s portion of Route 66 remain in need of rehabilitation and economic development assistance, the National Park Service’s Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program will legislatively expire within three years, posing an even greater challenge to preserving sites along the historic highway. Illinois legislators are leading the charge to develop alternative programs and designations to support historic Route 66. (Read more)

World War I Monuments, Statewide
These important and historic markers paying tribute to those who fought in the Great War are nearing 100 years old and many are in need of repair to return them to their dedication-era quality and appearance. April 6, 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the U.S. entry into WWI, and Landmarks Illinois has launched a new grant program to help communities restore these significant memorials. (Read more)

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

Share This Post On