Advocacy Alert: February 8, 2019

Advocacy Alert: Historic Properties Threatened in Highland Park, La Grange and Oak Park

February 8, 2019

By Lisa DiChiera

Three historic properties in Chicago’s suburbs are currently threatened: the Written House in Highland Park, Jackson Square Mall in La Grange and the Hill Motor Sales Company Building (also known as the Foley-Rice Building) in Oak Park. Public meetings are taking place on each property next week, and we encourage residents in each suburb to attend the meeting and/or reach out to their public officials to voice opposition to any demolition or potential plans to diminish the historic significance of these sites. Details on the current threats and the upcoming public meetings are below.


Written House: Highland Park

(Photo credit: Chris Tippens)

At its meeting next week on Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019, the Highland Park Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) will consider a request for a Certificate of Appropriateness (C of A) to remove the interior wood parquet flooring from the Witten House, located at 1014 Central Ave. in Highland Park. The historic house was built circa 1894 and designated a Highland Park Landmark in 1985.

Capitol Seniors Housing, a Washington, D.C.-based private equity-backed real estate acquisition, development and investment management firm, is the current owner of the Written House and is seeking to remove the flooring from the house to display it offsite in its planned future senior care facility. The owner has acknowledged removing the flooring from the Written House would diminished the home’s significance and deem it no longer worthy of landmark protection.

Background information on the house and the request can be found here. While the original landmark designation report of 1985 acknowledges these floors and William Walter Witten’s reputation as a master craftsman of parquet flooring, the landmark designation was not only based on this significance.

Please attend the HPC meeting on Feb. 14 or reach out to the HPC Chair Rhoda Pierce to voice your opposition to the approval of a C of A for the wood flooring at the Written House. Emails can be sent in care of Senior Planner Andy Cross at



Jackson Square Mall: La Grange

(Photo credit: Jean Follett)

The Jackson Square Mall at 112 E. Burlington Ave. is slated to be demolished and replaced with 50 condominiums. The owner of the property has met with the La Grange Plan Commission twice and will be seeking approval at the upcoming planning meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019.

The Jackson Moving and Storage building, known as the Jackson Square Mall, was built in 1903 and altered in 1923. It is considered a contributing building to the downtown National Register Historic District, which was established in 1979. La Grange does not have a local historic preservation ordinance and cannot protect the property locally. However, the building’s location in a National Register Historic District enables the owner to utilize certain historic tax incentives with a qualified rehabilitation/reuse project. New construction still could be accommodated on adjacent property, which is part of the project area. If demolished, this Art Deco-style historic building with its terra cotta ornament could never be replicated and downtown La Grange will lose this architecturally distinctive place.

Please attend the Plan Commission meeting or reach out to the Commission Chair Wayne Kardatzke asking that the Commission defer action on this proposed development and urge the owner to seek professionals with experience in adaptive use of historic buildings to evaluate its reuse potential as part of the larger residential development project. Emails can be sent in care of Village Planner Heather Valone,



Hill Motor Sales Company Building: Oak Park

(Photo credit: Norma Rios)

Also next Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019, the Oak Park Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) will hold a public designation hearing regarding the landmark eligibility of the of the Hill Motor Sales Company Building (Foley-Rice Building) at 644 Madison St.

On Jan. 10, 2019, the HPC voted to accept a landmark nomination, approving the building’s preliminary determination of eligibility for designation as an Oak Park Landmark. Members of the public and citizens are encouraged to attend the designation hearing on the on Feb. 14 to speak in favor of the building’s significance, landmark eligibility and preference for its reuse rather than demolition.

The building is currently planned for demolition as part of a large-scale redevelopment project. Landmarks Illinois included the building on its Chicagoland Watch List in 2007 and most recently wrote a letter of support for the current landmarking effort. If the HPC votes to recommend landmark designation on Feb. 14, the recommendation will be sent to the Village Board.

Please attend the HPC hearing or reach out to the HPC Chair Chris Payne to voice your support for Oak Park landmark designation of 644 Madison St. Emails can be sent in care of Historic Preservation Urban Planner Susie Trexler


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