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State Supreme Court Rejects Chicago’s Landmarks Plea


On May 28, 2009, the Illinois Supreme Court rejected the City of Chicago’s petition asking the court to review a January 30th ruling by the Illinois Appellate Court that puts the Chicago Landmarks Ordinance at risk. Landmarks Illinois, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Illinois Attorney General, and a score of cities and organizations had joined the City to request review of the case by the Illinois Supreme Court.

This decision means the case now will be sent back to Cook County trial court Judge Sophia Hall, who will have to hold a hearing and render a judgment that is consistent with the Appellate Court’s opinion, which had said that criteria in the Chicago Landmarks Ordinance were “unconstitutionally vague.” (The original case was filed in 2006 by two Chicago property owners who were displeased with the City’s designation of their neighborhoods as local landmark districts.)

It is expected that, when the case is concluded later this summer, Judge Hall will enter a final order that finds language in the Chicago Landmarks Ordinance to be “vague.” The City of Chicago may then formally appeal that decision. However, until the trial court makes such a ruling, the local landmarks ordinance will remain in effect.

In the meantime, Landmarks Illinois has received countless phone calls and e-mails from municipalities concerned about the potential impact of this court case on their local landmark ordinances. Chicago’s Landmarks Ordinance is similar to many other landmark laws across Illinois and the United States. Since its passage in 1968, the Chicago ordinance has resulted in the protection of 276 individual landmarks and 51 landmark districts, encompassing nearly 10,000 properties.


The following signed onto the March 11th motion in support of the City of Chicago:

Illinois Municipalities

City of Aurora
(City of Blue Island – not included due to timing of submission)
City of Highland Park
City of Lake Forest
Village of Oak Park
City of Rock Island
City of Urbana
(Village of Wilmette – not included due to timing of submission)


Illinois Associations and Organizations

AIA Chicago
Illinois Association of Preservation Commissions
Illinois Historic Preservation Agency
Illinois Municipal League
Landmarks Illinois
Preservation Chicago
Scenic Illinois


National Associations and Organizations

National Association of Preservation Commissions
National Trust for Historic Preservation
Preservation Action


Other American City Preservation Organizations

Cleveland Restoration Society
New York Landmarks Conservancy
Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation


Download the March 11th motion in support of the City of Chicago:


Amici Statement in Support of Chicago Petition

Download the PDF of the appellate court ruling:
(issued Jan. 30, 2009; revised Mar. 6, 2009):


Landmarks Appellate Court


Download Landmarks Illinois’ Preservation Brief No. 111 to answer common questions on the appellate court decision:


Chicago Landmarks Ordinance PB111

Click the links below to read full articles about the appellate court ruling:

Chicago Tribune Stories


Court Ruling Puts Landmark Standards At Risk (Feb. 3, 2009)

The Skyline Blog: Disorder in the Court (Jan. 30, 2009)

Chicago Landmarks Law Takes a Hit (Jan. 31, 2009)


Preservation Magazine

Illinois Court Calls Chicago Landmarks Law "Vague"
(Feb. 3, 2009)

Crain’s Chicago Business


Court Strikes Down City's Landmarks Law (Jan. 30, 2009)


Chicago Architect Magazine


Sitting in Limbo; City’s Landmark Ordinance challenged, waits its day in court (May/June 2009)







Landmarks Illinois
Suite 1315
53 W. Jackson Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60604 
tel. 312-922-1742 
fax 312-922-8112



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tax exempt 501(c)(3) organization founded in 1971 and is the state's leading voice for historic preservation.