A Look at Where All That Adopt-a-Landmark Money Goes in Chicago

For the last five years, real estate developers in Chicago have been using a city program called Adopt-a-Landmark to get things out of City Hall, and vice-versa. It’s one of the key tools that developers use to cram a little more height into a space that was meant for less. In essence, if they write a check to the Adopt-a-Landmark program, they can add a few more floors to the fancy downtown office buildings, condos, hotels, and whatnot that form the Chicago skyline.

The amount varies by project, but in the projects we track, it’s generally in the six to eight-figure range. So, not peanuts.

The city then pools the money from the height the developers bought, and redistributes it to the people responsible for the care and feeding of some of the city’s important, but less profitable, structures.

Recently, the Department of Planning and Development made a list of 12 buildings it thinks deserve a slice of that accumulated money. Here’s what it thinks is deserving:

Greenstone United Methodist Church (file)
Greenstone United Methodist Church (file)
  • Greenstone United Methodist Church: This Pullman church was built in 1882, and designed by Solon Spencer Beman. The D.P.D. recommends it get $1,080,000 for restoration and preservation.
  • Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church: This 1889 Grand Boulevard church was designed by none other than Dankmar Adler as a synagogue for the Isaiah Temple. While that would be enough to make most buildings noteworthy, this was also the place where gospel music was invented in 1931, and where Bo Diddley learned to play music. It’s in line for $900,000 in Adopt-a-Landmark money.
  • Second Presbyterian Church: Stunning both inside and out, time and the rigors of city living have not been kind of this building. We’ve told you about a number of preservation efforts in recent years. Now it could get $250,000 from the Adopt-a-Landmark program
  • Muddy Waters House: A quarter of a million dollars has been recommended for this Kenwood home which became a city landmark just a couple of months ago. If you don’t know who Muddy Waters was, you can turn in your Chicago card right now, and move to the prairie. There’s a reason this is called “The original house of blues.”
  • Gunnison Street Lofts: We don’t know much about this Uptown building. But the D.P.D. thinks it deserves $250,000 developer dollars. So we should eventually hear something about why.
  • Stone Temple Missionary Baptist Church: Originally the First Roumanian Congregation, this is another of Chicago’s synagogues that later found a second life. The North Lawndale building was erected almost a hundred years ago, when the neighborhood was known as “Chicago’s Jerusalem.” After it became a Baptist church, it played a role in America’s Civil Rights Movement, and hosted Martin Luther King, Junior. A quarter million has been recommended for this one, too.
  • K.A.M. Isaiah Israel Temple: This magnificent Kenwood building is the home of Chicago’s second-oldest Jewish congregation, and was designed by Alfred Alschuler. It could get $250,000 in Adopt-a-Landmark funds.
  • 6901 South Oglesby Cooperative Apartment Building: This South Shore building was one of the pioneers of the lakefront high-rise co-op movement that shaped Chicago, and made it what it is today, visually. For some reason this one is in line for $249,999 — a dollar less than the previous few.
  • Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley House: There’s so much to say about this landmark Woodlawn home. You’re better off reading the city’s document about it than relying on an inadequate summary of its history from us. It’s up for the rather specific sum of $249,541.
  • Pentecostal Church of Holiness: You may know this North Lawndale building as Our Lady of Lourdes. It was a Czech church until 1964, and only added English language masses 30 years earlier. It was the home church of Bishop Dempsey, who founded the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. The Archdiocese of Chicago closed the church a while back. It became a Baptist church in 2006, but was vacant again by 2012. It became a Pentecostal church five years ago, and is expected to get $248,000.
  • 9401 South Ewing Avenue: We’ve written about the Schlitz tied houses a number of times, and about this specific one once. One of the official reasons this is a city landmark is because of how economically important beer was to Chicago. So if you’re a beer fan, a history fan, or a beer history fan, you probably understand why it’s on tap for $243,260.
  • John J. Glessner House: This Prairie Avenue building is the only one on the list with its own museum. Since it has its own museum, and its own web site, you don’t need us to tell you about it. The people at the Glessner House Museum will be happy to do so. For a fee.

Nothing is simple at City Hall, so the D.P.D. recommendations aren’t final. Other people in other committees still have to green light the list. But it’s a nice look at what may be preserved soon in a neighborhood near you.

Author: Editor

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

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