Just days after the Fish and Wildlife Service started talking about adding giraffes to its endangered species list, Landmarks Illinois put out its annual list of the Prairie State’s most endangered places.
There are a dozen entries on the list, with three in Chicago, three in the surrounding area, and the remainder scattered across the state.
Here’s the endangered dozen:
James R. Thompson Center, Chicago
For the third year in a row, LI is including the one-of-a-kind, state-owned building in Chicago’s Loop on its Most Endangered list. Designed by Helmut Jahn and built in 1985, the Thompson Center remains threatened as the State of Illinois continues to pursue a sale of the building that could allow new development on the site. In March 2019, Gov. JB Pritzker signed legislation that outlines a two-year plan for the building’s sale. Landmarks Illinois only supports a sale if it includes reuse of the irreplaceable building, which remains Chicago’s best example of grandly-scaled, Postmodern architecture.
Sheffield National Register Historic District, Chicago
Located in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood, this historic district is home to some of the city’s best examples of late-19th century architecture. While the district is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this does not protect against demolition of its architecturally significant buildings, and an increasing number of them are being torn down by new owners and developers in favor of new construction. To date, a third of the district’s buildings have been demolished and LI would like to see new polices explored to prevent further demolition.
Washington Park National Bank, Chicago
The five-story, limestone neoclassical building at the corner of Cottage Grove and 63rd Street, was built in 1924 and is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. The site was once the heart of a thriving retail area in Chicago’s Woodlawn community, but has been vacant for years. Current building owner, the Cook County Land Bank Authority, has fast-tracked redevelopment of the long-vacant site and recently selected a proposal from a developer that includes demolition of the historic bank, despite community input that demonstrated a preference for its preservation and reuse.
Booth Cottage, Glencoe
This Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home is currently for sale and unprotected. The one-story frame house was originally built in 1913 for Sherman and Elizabeth Booth, prominent members of the Glencoe community in the early 20th century. While charming in size, the house is located on a substantial lot that could accommodate a much larger residence, putting it at risk for tear-down and redevelopment.
Hoover Estate, Glencoe
The historic Hoover Estate was built in 1925 and designed by architect William Furst, architect of Glencoe’s village hall. The estate includes three buildings, all of which are remarkable examples of the Tudor Revival style, important not only for their architectural significance, but also for their association with famous vacuum magnate H. Earl Hoover. The Estate was recently purchased by a developer who plans to demolish the buildings to make way for multiple new single-family homes. The Glencoe Village Board rejected the Historic Preservation Commission’s recommendation for honorary landmark status, which would have delayed demolition and given the commission opportunity to urge reuse of any of the buildings.
Hill Motor Sales Building, Oak Park
The former Packard showroom, also known as the former Foley-Rice dealership, was built in 1924-27 and remains one of the best preserved and most architecturally striking examples left from the time when Oak Park’s Madison Street was an automobile sales district. Despite vocal protest from the community and recommendations for local landmarking from their own Historic Preservation Commission, Oak Park officials recently agreed to allow a developer to demolish the vacant building to make way for a new grocery store. Locals continue to push for the historic building to be incorporated in the development.
Elsewhere in Illinois
St. Mary’s School, Galena
The 1865 school is part of Galena’s National Register Historic District and a cherished part of the community. Unfortunately, the building has suffered from neglect under private ownership since the 1970s. The current owner is willing to sell, but the cost and scope of repairs makes the project challenging. The Galena Foundation, a local nonprofit, is advocating to save St. Mary’s School as well as for Galena to pass a “demolition by neglect” ordinance to prevent historic buildings in private ownership from reaching such a state of disrepair. An ordinance of this type was proposed last year, but failed to pass the Galena City Council.
Millstadt Milling & Feed Company, Millstadt
Built in 1857 with a grain elevator added in 1880, the property is one of the oldest continually operating grain elevators in the state and represents a critical piece of Illinois’ industrial and agricultural past. Despite its historic significance and sound condition, Millstadt village officials have declared the site a “public nuisance” and given the current owners a tight timeframe to provide a detailed plan for restoration or face condemnation and demolition.
Chancery and Piety Hill properties, Rockford
This group of three historic buildings includes the Chancery & Bishop’s Residence, the St. Peter School and a convent, and are part of the former “Piety Hill” campus located prominently in Rockford’s Signal Hill community. Designed by architect Wybe J. van der Meer and built between 1922 and 1929, the buildings are excellent examples of Beaux Arts and Renaissance Revival architecture. Current property owners, the Catholic Diocese of Rockford, is hoping to demolish the historic structures despite local opposition and eligibility for local landmark status.
Rock Island County Courthouse, Rock Island
The Spanish Renaissance-style building was designed by Fredrick C. Gunn and Louis S. Curtis and built between 1895 and 1897. Vacant since the neighboring Justice Center Annex opened in late 2018, the Rock Island County Board and Public Building Commission have moved to demolish the historic courthouse without complying with state preservation law. Landmarks Illinois joined a lawsuit with five other plaintiffs seeking to prevent this unlawful demolition. The case is currently being heard by the State of Illinois Third District Appellate Court.
Ray House, Rushville
The Ray House was built in the 1850s and remains one of the oldest homes in Rushville. It is a beautiful example of Gothic Revival and Victorian architecture and is perhaps best known for hosting Abraham Lincoln during his 1858 senatorial campaign. Unfortunately, the Ray House sits vacant and has suffered significant deterioration following years of deferred maintenance. Immediate repairs are needed, including to the brick foundation and basement walls. A local nonprofit, the Schuyler County Architecture Foundation, has started a campaign to raise funds for the much-needed restoration.
Greek Housing at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
The University of Illinois campus has one of the largest concentrations of Greek Life in the country, but an increasing number of the century-old or more fraternity and sorority houses face demolition. These beautiful homes, which have become an integral part of the architectural fabric of Champaign and Urbana, have suffered from deferred maintenance, declining occupancy rates and a rapid escalation of property tax assessments, often making them tear-down targets to make way for new, higher-density apartment buildings.