Sarah Van Domelen is a senior associate for Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates. She has been with the firm since 2010. Sarah also serves as the Vice Chair of the Skyline Council of Landmarks Illinois. Learn more about why historic preservation is important to Sarah and how she enjoys exploring Chicago neighborhoods.
What is the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is getting to see (and work on) the behind-the-scenes places and hard-to-access parts of buildings that the general public typically doesn’t get to see. Some of my favorite jobs so far have been the American Museum of Natural History in New York, the Reptile House at the Bronx Zoo, Second Presbyterian Church of Chicago, and the Old Chicago Post Office. You never know what you’ll find in an attic or a crawl space, and the rooftop views aren’t too bad either!
When and why did you become involved with LI and join the Skyline Council?
I joined Landmarks Illinois and the Skyline Council in 2015, after relocating from New York City, to meet my peers in preservation in Chicago.
Why is historic preservation important and what about it interests you?
Historic preservation is important for so many reasons. Most important in my mind is the goal of maintaining a unique sense of place and retaining variety in our built environment. Working in preservation interests me because no two projects are alike, and you always find something unexpected. I also just really like old buildings!
What is one thing about historic preservation you would tell another young professional to spark their interest?
Get into preservation and you’ll never be bored at work – there is always something new to discover on the job. And it is extremely satisfying to see the “brick and mortar” (pun intended) end results of your work.
What impact do you think young professionals like yourself will have on the future of historic preservation?
Young professionals ARE the future of historic preservation. We should learn everything we can from the experts in the field that came before us, but we must also continue to strive for new and unique solutions to the complex preservation challenges that will come our way.
What do you do to support and advocate for preservation either in your professional or personal life? (or both!)
I am a member of the Skyline Council of Landmarks Illinois and the Association for Preservation Technology (APT). At APT, I’ve volunteered with the Preservation Engineering Technical Committee’s Student Design Build Competition to help get engineering students more interested and involved with preservation. The competition, which will be in its fourth year in 2019, involves a hands-on design challenge at the APT national conference.
What do you do in your free time?
In my free time I enjoy exploring Chicago’s neighborhoods, mainly via eating and drinking establishments. That’s why I love our Skyline Council Pub Crawls!