In the case of Clarendon Hills and Elmhurst, there are no local landmarks
ordinances to protect important buildings. Meanwhile, the preservation laws in
Glencoe and Winnetka require the consent of the owner for an important property
to be designated a landmark.
This is absurd. After all, it has been more than 70 years since the first local
preservation ordinance was instituted in Charleston, South Carolina. And it has
been 25 years since the constitutionality of these ordinances was upheld by the
U.S. Supreme Court in the Penn Central case.
Land-use regulation is an accepted tool to ensure the preservation of important
structures—and community character—for the benefit of all citizens. Today,
roughly 2,000 communities nationwide have local preservation ordinances; there
are more than 50 in Illinois.
Yet, we continue to fight individual battles to save important structures in
communities that aren’t willing to arm themselves with the most basic tool: a
local preservation ordinance. If the “heroic rescue” is our main technique for
saving buildings, then we haven’t advanced the art of preservation very far.
Rather than waste efforts on each individual campaign, it’s time to wage the big
one. Organize your neighborhood groups. Lobby your city council or village
board. Draft a local ordinance—one without an owner-consent provision. And adopt
If a community believes it has buildings worth saving, it needs to enact a law
to protect them. Or face the consequences … futile battle after futile battle.