Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois 25th Anniversary

This year, 2019, marks the 25th Anniversary of Landmarks Illinois’ Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois. Since 1995, the annual list has called attention to the state’s top threatened historic, architecturally or culturally significant sites. These are places – public- and private-owned buildings, archaeological sites, homes, schools, places of worship and more – that have been threatened by deterioration, lack of maintenance, insufficient funds or inappropriate development. By including them on our annual “Most Endangered” program, Landmarks Illinois has helped raise awareness of these places and advocate for their protection and preservation.

In honor of the 25th Anniversary, we have taken a look back on the program’s impact on preservation in Illinois. Below, we feature stories from each year of the annual “Most Endangered” program, highlighting historic sites that were once in danger of being demolished, neglected or inappropriately cared for but today are preserved and celebrated. The stories also reflect on why these places are significant to our state’s history, why Landmarks Illinois called attention to them the year they were included on our Most Endangered list and what preservation efforts took place immediately after the listing as well as in the years since.



years of the Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois


unique listings included on LI’s Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois


historic sites have been saved from demolition or stabilized since including them on the annual Most Endangered list


sites have reinvestment projects pending or underway


sites are located in Chicago


sites are located in Chicago suburbs


sites are located outside Chicago and its suburbs, in downstate Illinois


Most Endangered listings have been “statewide,” such as the “Federal Tax Credit” and “WWI Monuments” in 2017 or “Mid-Century Modern Homes” in 2005.


sites have been residential


religious structures named on the Most Endangered list


sites were privately owned at the time of listing


sites are owned by the State of Illinois

*Data from 1995-2018. Does not include 2019 list.


North Shore Station - Skokie


The North Shore Station—also known as the Dempster Street Station—in Skokie served both as a regional transportation hub and a prime example of Prairie-Style architecture since its construction in 1925. Insensitive alterations and the need for a new transportation center, however, put the building at risk for demolition by the early 1990s. In an effort to save this architectural gem, Landmarks Illinois included North Shore Station in its inaugural Ten Most Endangered Historic Places in 1995. The “Ten Most” later became what LI now calls the Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois. (Photo credit: Liz Chilsen)

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Chatterton’s Block - Springfield


Over 175 years’ worth of buildings completely enclose the public square around Springfield’s Old State Capitol. In the mid-1990s, however, five historic buildings anchoring its southwest corner were nearly lost to the wrecking ball due to extreme deterioration. To preserve this cluster of architecturally and historically significant buildings, local developers stepped up to undertake an ambitious—and ultimately successful—restoration project. (Photo credit: Liz Chilsen)

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Old Main Post Office - Chicago


One of the most visible buildings in downtown Chicago, the former Main Post Office, stood empty for over 20 years after it was vacated by the United States Postal Service in 1996. Multiple plans for the massive 2.5 million-square-foot Art Deco building surfaced over the years, but potential redevelopments faced continual disappointments. For over two decades Landmarks Illinois monitored and advocated for responsible reuse of this iconic structure, culminating in a 2018 City of Chicago Landmark designation that proved to be the final piece of the financing puzzle for this complex but critical redevelopment project. (Photo credit: Liz Chilsen)

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Wagner Farm - Glenview


In 1997, one of the last working dairy farms in Cook County was at risk for demolition and redevelopment. The nearly century-old Wagner Farm represented a crucial piece of the local and regional past, serving as a reminder of the agricultural roots of Chicago’s North Shore communities. To preserve this beautiful and historic property, Glenview advocates and the local Park District joined forces with Landmarks Illinois to include Wagner Farm on the 1998 Most Endangered list. (Photo credit: Liz Chilsen)

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Nelson Factory - Edwardsville


With more than 2,000 students currently pursuing educational and career opportunities at the former Nelson Factory in Edwardsville, it is hard to imagine these historic buildings were almost demolished in the 1990s. Yet the historic brick buildings of Lewis and Clark Community College’s current Nelson Factory campus were quickly succumbing to demolition by neglect when the complex was included on Landmarks Illinois’ 1999 Most Endangered list. (Photo credit: Liz Chilsen)

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Unity Temple - Oak Park


Built in 1909 by Frank Lloyd Wright, Unity Temple in Oak Park represents a groundbreaking example of religious architecture in America. One of the widely revered architect’s most iconic works, the concrete Unity Temple was also Wright’s first major public building. Unfortunately, by 2000, the structure was suffering from roof leaks, water damage, cracked concrete eves and other damages due to deferred maintenance. Although the small congregation wished to maintain this historic structure, they struggled to pull together the $4 million for necessary restorations. To shine a light on this important need, Landmarks Illinois listed Unity Temple on its 2000 Most Endangered list. (Photo credit: Liz Chilsen)

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Uptown Theatre - Chicago

2001 (also listed 1996, 2010, 2014)

Built in 1925, the Uptown Theater was designed by Rapp & Rapp for the Balaban & Katz theater chain. The 4,381-seat and 46,000-square-foot theater was—and still is—one of the largest and most opulent in the country. While numerous attempts had been made over the years to restore the historic Uptown Theatre, none came to fruition until Jam Productions purchased the building in 2008 and are now undergoing a restoration.

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Rosenwald Court Apartments - Chicago


In 2002, the historic Rosenwald Court Apartments—formerly known as the Michigan Boulevard Garden Apartments—were rapidly deteriorating. For years the Art Moderne-style residential building had served as a centerpiece and source of pride for the historic Bronzeville neighborhood. However, after the structure was vacated in 1999, it sat empty for years, subject to deterioration and neglect. Listing the Rosenwald Court Apartments on our 2002 Most Endangered list, Landmarks Illinois joined with public officials and dedicated Bronzeville community representatives to help rescue this historically and architecturally significant gem. (Photo credit: Liz Chilsen)

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Farnsworth House - Plano


One of the most significant residential designs of the 20th century – architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House – was saved in late-2003 through a joint effort by Landmarks Illinois, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Friends of the Farnsworth House. (Photo Credit: Liz Chilsen)

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Fuller Home Dome - Carbondale


By 1999, the Carbondale’s famous Dome Home was in need of major repairs. Luckily, SIUC Emeritus and Fuller’s colleague H.F.W. “Bill” Perk decided to purchase the historic structure and built a protective cover—another geodesic dome—over the Dome Home to prevent additional deterioration. In 2002, Perk donated the house to a nonprofit organization, RBF Dome NFP, that formed with the mission is to restore the Fuller Dome Home as a historic site. Recognizing the amount of work still to be done—and the need to draw attention to this unique historic gem—RBF Dome NFP worked with Landmarks Illinois to include the dome on our 2004 Most Endangered list. (Photo credit: Liz Chilsen)

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Cook County Hospital - Chicago

2005 (also listed 2004, 2003, 2001)

The 1915 Cook County Hospital is a stunning Beaux Arts behemoth on Chicago’s Near West Side. After a new facility was built nearby in 1998, however, the old Cook County Hospital faced the prospect of a pricey and unnecessary demolition. Thus began a two-decade-long struggle over the historic building’s fate. Now, thanks to advocacy by LI, the support of the community and local leadership effort, a restoration and redevelopment project has broken ground at the historic hospital. (Photo credit: Liz Chilsen)

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Trail of Tears Encampment - Buncombe


In the late 1830s, over 10,000 Cherokee were removed from their homes in the southeastern United States, traveling the Trail of Tears to newly designated lands beyond the Mississippi. Many spent the winter at a small property in southern Illinois, where they waited out the cold and traded at the Bridges family tavern and wayside store. Today, the timber-plank walls of that store still exist, making it the only known extant structure in Illinois with a connection to the Trail of Tears. In 2006, however, this piece of history was rapidly deteriorating. (Photo credit: Liz Chilsen)

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Longfellow Elementary School - Rock Island


Like many other neighborhood schools throughout the state, Longfellow Elementary has long served as an important anchor and cherished resource of its community. So when the Rock Island School District decided to close it 2004, the neighbors, students, parents and alumni were concerned about the future of the beloved site. Working with LI and the local school district, a grassroots movement helped to reopen Longfellow Elementary, providing an example of how community members can work together to save our endangered historic neighborhood schools. (Photo credit: Liz Chilsen)


Michigan Avenue Streetwall - Chicago

2008 (also listed 1995)

As Chicago’s most public face, it’s hard to believe that the historic Michigan Avenue Street Wall ever lacked protection from intrusive development. Nonetheless, the iconic wall of buildings facing Grant Park has been included not once, but twice on Landmarks Illinois’ Most Endangered list. (Photo credit: Liz Chilsen)

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Arcade Building - Riverside


Among the oldest buildings in Riverside, the 1871 Arcade Building is one of America’s earliest shopping arcades—a predecessor of modern shopping malls. Despite local and national recognition of the structure’s historic value, a series of neglectful owners and failed redevelopment efforts left the Arcade Building in need of a loving owner to correct years of disrepair. Luckily, local contractor Giuseppe Zappani proved to be the perfect man for the job. (Photo credit: Liz Chilsen)

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Massac Theater - Metropolis


Today, the town of Metropolis is perhaps most famous for its annual Superman Celebration. But years ago, it was also known for the beautiful Art Deco-style Massac Theatre on the main square. By 2010, decades of neglect had left the building a damsel in need of rescue. A dedicated group of local advocates, assisted by a resident with Super connections, worked tirelessly to help bring the Massac back to the center of community life in Metropolis. (Photo credit: Liz Chilsen)

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Belleville Turner Hall - Belleville


In 2010, Belleville residents were worried that historic Turner Hall, also known as the old YMCA, would be demolished and turned into a parking lot. A center of community life for over 85 years, this community gem was in urgent need of the right owner to rehabilitate and breathe new life into its still-solid walls. To find the right match and hold off the wrecking ball, Landmarks Illinois called attention to Turner Hall by including it on its Most Endangered list in 2011. (Photo credit: Liz Chilsen)

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Marbold Farmstead - Greenview


Originally called “Elmwood,” the 1850 farmhouse was built by John Marbold, a German immigrant and prominent Greenview farmer and businessman. It served as the central hub of the Marbold family farmland holdings, which consisted of over 4,000 acres. After sitting vacant for a decade, the nonprofit Historic Marbold Farmstead Association took action to raise money and restore the farmstead. Today, Marbold is a true living history farm, with interpretive tours and demonstrations on nineteenth-century agricultural practices. (Photo credit: Liz Chilsen)


Beecher Mausoleum - Beecher


In 2013, the Beecher Mausoleum was one of many community mausoleums statewide suffering from neglect. Due to a lack of oversight and financial support, as well as complicated legal regulations and policies regarding land ownership and treatment of human remains, communities across Illinois struggle to maintain these historic mausoleums. Dozens of communal mausoleums were built in the early 1900s as part of a movement to provide affordable above-ground entombment. The buildings were often given rich stone veneers and stained-glass windows. Many, however, fell into disrepair without adequate income to maintain them or designated organizations to take care of them, leaving some with no effective ownership. (Photo credit: Liz Chilsen)

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Halsted and Willow Gateway - Chicago


Heading north on Halsted Avenue in Chicago, one encounters the traffic and congestion of the heavily developed North/Clybourn Corridors. However, within the next block, at 1800 N. Halsted, there is a dramatic departure from growing urban development. In 2014, this distinctive “gateway” at the intersection of Halsted and Willow was under threat of demolition and redevelopment. Convinced that a successful reuse for the historic buildings could be found, Landmarks Illinois included the Halsted and Willow gateway on its 2014 Most Endangered list. (Photo credit: Liz Chilsen)

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St. James Academy - Lemont


In 2018, the historic St. James Academy in Lemont exemplified the growing number of shuttered archdiocesan schools across Illinois. For years the limestone structure sat vacant with a leaking roof and increasingly significant interior damage, leading the local Diocese who owned the building to view the structure as a drain on its limited resources. Even as the parish pushed for demolition permits, local residents rallied behind the historic school in the hopes that the right developer could be identified for a successful reuse solution. (Photo credit: Liz Chilsen)


Harley Clarke Mansion - Evanston


Just off the shore of Lake Michigan, the Harley Clarke home is both an anchor for a National Register Historic District and an Evanston City Landmark. In the early 2010s, however, the City of Evanston created a storm of controversy when they proposed demolishing the historic building. Working with Landmarks Illinois and other advocacy groups, local preservationists organized, mobilized public support and saved this architectural gem. (Photo credit: Liz Chilsen)

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Federal Historic Tax Credit - Statewide


Since it was first enacted in 1978, the Federal Historic Tax Credit has been used to help finance the reuse, rehabilitation and preservation of hundreds of properties throughout Illinois. Creating jobs, attracting private capital and revitalizing communities, the tax incentive is a vital piece of historic preservation in our country. Despite these clear benefits, the federal historic tax credit was placed in jeopardy in 2017 by a proposed tax reform bill. (Photo: Prairie Street Brewing Company, Rockford. credit: Liz Chilsen)

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Nite Spot Cafe - Fairmont City


Each year, tens of thousands of visitors explore Illinois on Route 66 in search of the neon signs, motels and brick roads that characterize the “Mother Road.” However, many businesses along Route 66 have shuttered, their neon signs going dark for the foreseeable future. In 2018, The Nite Spot Café (and its iconic sign) was but one example, threatened by the expansion of a nearby library complex. (Photo credit: Liz Chilsen)

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