Preservation News Roundup: 2020 Year in Review

Landmarks Illinois’ major advocacy efforts, projects, programs and events during 2020. Thank you to all our partners, on-the-ground advocates, members and supporters for helping us preserve our state’s culturally and historically significant places. We hope you will join us in 2021 as we continue to save places for people! JOIN OR RENEW YOUR MEMBERSHIP HERE


Like every one else, Landmarks Illinois had to make significant adjustments this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Our staff has stayed safe working at home since March. We canceled our 2020 Most Endangered program to focus more resources on helping people most impacted by the virus. We hosted our first ever major virtual events, which were watched by hundreds of people across Illinois. Read more about the ways we adjusted during this unprecedented time while staying true to our mission of helping people save places for people.

Special COVID 19 Relief grants provide critical funding to 13 Illinois nonprofits

This spring, Landmarks Illinois launched its special COVID-19 Organization Relief Grant Program to help community development, preservation and other partner nonprofits throughout the state during the coronavirus health crisis. The program provided a total of $26,000 in grant funding to 13 Illinois nonprofits — each receiving a one-time $2,000 grant to use toward essential, organizational expenditures. Jim Richards, President of grant recipient Save the Lorraine Foundation, said: “This grant money will help us maintain our current monthly bills as well as replenish expired concession inventory.”

(Pictured: Workers repair the marquee at the Lorraine Theater. Courtesy of the Save the Lorraine Foundation, a 2020 Landmarks Illinois COVID-19 Organization Relief Grant Program recipient.)

Learn more about the grant program and its grant recipients:

COVID 19 Grant Recipients

#mysacredground social media campaign highlights power of place

While many things changed in 2020, one thing has stayed the same: The power of place. Our state’s special and historic places have the power to connect us, even if we cannot physically gather together in them at the moment. With this in mind, as well as inspiration from 2020 Legendary Landmark and civil rights activist Timuel D. Black Jr., we asked people to share their “sacred place” with us — somewhere that emulated hope, strength and peace during this difficult year.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the #mysacredground campaign by posting photos of their special place. And, if you missed out, you can still share a #mysacredground post! Include a photo and explanation of why that place is important to you! Make sure to tag us @landmarksillinois on Instagram and @landmarksill on Facebook & Twitter.

See more examples of #mysacredground posts here, here and here!

Virtual events bringing people together

A clear highlight of the year was preservation architect and musician Eddie Torrez on the accordion during the virtual 2020 Landmarks Illinois Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Preservation Awards Ceremony! Pictured above, Eddie & Los Cool Shades generously provided live music during the event as well as during the “Breweries Saving Buildings” virtual Happy Hour hosted by the Skyline Council just prior to the ceremony. The music kicked off Landmarks Illinois’ first-ever virtual preservation awards ceremony, which honored the people involved in our nine 2020 award-winning projects.

Virtual events became the norm (and necessity) for so many organizations in 2020. Landmarks Illinois also hosted its first-ever virtual Annual Meeting in June, where we shared major accomplishments of our 19/20 Fiscal Year and featured presentations on numerous preservation projects throughout the state: The Keller Station in Peoria, Mt. Pisgah Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago and two major advocacy efforts in Bloomington and Springfield.

(Check out our Annual Report here)

We also held virtual Preservation Snapshots Lectures this fall as well as an educational panel discussion hosted by our Real Estate & Building Industries Council in August.

We have made many of these virtual events available to view on the Landmarks Illinois YouTube Channel. Check them out below!

Watch our virtual events


February 2021 will mark the 50th Anniversary of Landmarks Illinois, and throughout 2020 we ramped up our efforts to honor this major milestone and prepare for the future or the organization.

50th Anniversary Task Force begins to shape preservation's future

During 2020, Landmarks Illinois’ 50th Anniversary Task Force held monthly (mainly virtual) meetings to discuss some of the biggest challenges and issues impacting the preservation field as well as how Landmarks Illinois should address them in its work. The task force, made up of a group of thought leaders from Chicago and throughout Illinois, tackled topics like affordable housing, inclusion and social justice. It also hosted two full-day critical cultural competency training sessions for task force members as well as members of Landmarks Illinois Board of Directors and Skyline Council.

Stay tuned for future announcements on Landmarks Illinois’ 50th Anniversary in 2021!

(Pictured: The Arch from the former Chicago Stock Exchange Building — the structure that sparked the creation of Landmarks Illinois. The Landmarks Illinois logo continues to be inspired by this arch.)

Landmarks Illinois' 'Preservation Relevancy Guidebook' plans to address field's accessibility, diversity & more

Landmarks Illinois President & CEO Bonnie McDonald was one among three professionals this year to receive the James Marston Fitch Charitable Foundation 2020 Mid-Career Fellowship, which is given to leaders conducting valuable preservation research. With the fellowship, McDonald is in the process of writing a “Relevancy Guidebook for the U.S. Preservation Movement” that addresses the need for preservation to be more accessible, inclusive, equitable and diverse. Prior to the pandemic, she was traveling across the United States to conduct interviews with thought leaders to inform the future digital guidebook, which will be published on Landmarks Illinois’ website in 2021. McDonald has, so far, conducted more than 100 interviews with professionals across the country for the project.

In addition to pursuing her fellowship project this year, McDonald was named as one of three co-chairs to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s special memorial and monuments advisory committee. The select group is tasked with assessing the city’s current public art inventory and identify ones that may be problematic. Read more here.

Learn more about McDonald’s Fitch Fellowship:

Learn More

Solidarity Statement pledges more equitable preservation practices

This summer, in response to the death of George Floyd and the protests it sparked, Landmarks Illinois issued a solidarity statement to show our support for those who were publicly demonstrating the anger, outrage and deep sadness over historic injustices against Black Americans. Penned by Landmarks Illinois President & CEO Bonnie McDonald and Board Chair Sandra Rand, the statement also served as a pledge to be an active participant within the preservation field in creating a truly fair and just society for all.

Part of planning for Landmarks Illinois’ 50th Anniversary in 2021 has been understanding our existing biases and shortcomings in our work and addressing the changes required to preservation practices to ensure we are best serving all people of Illinois. This tough and necessary work is ongoing and will continue throughout 2021 and beyond.

Read our full statement below:

Solidarity Statement


Landmarks Illinois launched a number of new programs and projects in 2020, which allowed us to provide more preservation resources to our constituents and bring attention to more of our state’s historic places.

New Grant Program: Landmarks Illinois Timuel D. Black, Jr. Grant Fund for Chicago’s South Side

In May we announced our newest grant program: The Landmarks Illinois Timuel D. Black, Jr. Grant Fund for Chicago’s South Side. And, in September, we awarded the first grant through the fund to the Muddy Waters Original Jam Out (MOJO) Museum, a nonprofit working to preserve blues legend Muddy Waters’ former home in Chicago’s North Kenwood neighborhood and convert it into a museum and cultural center. The MOJO Museum will use these funds to carry out important structural repairs at the 131-year-old home that McKinley Morganfield, aka Muddy Waters, lived in from 1954 to 1973.

Chandra Cooper, President of the MOJO Museum and Muddy Waters’ great-granddaughter, shared personal insights on the project and her family’s music legacy in our November 2020 edition of The Arch newsletter. You can read more about progress at the Muddy Waters house here.

Landmarks Illinois Timuel D. Black, Jr. Grant Fund for Chicago’s South Side:

Learn About the Grant Fund

Landmarks Illinois launches 'Women Who Built Illinois' project

Honoring the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote in the U.S., Landmarks Illinois launched its “Women Who Built Illinois” project in 2020. The initiative will create a database focused on female architects, engineers, developers, designers and builders in Illinois between 1879 and 1979 and their built projects throughout the state. Stay tuned in the months ahead as we launch the online database on our website. The National Trust for Historic Preservation, AIA Illinois and Women in Restoration & Engineering (WiRE) have provided generous financial support for the project.

Read more about this new initiative and watch a fall presentation on it: 

Women Who Built Illinois

Recent Past Survey Database is revamped

The Recent Past Survey of Suburban Cook County is a project first launched in 2006 in partnership with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s (SAIC) Graduate Program in Historic Preservation that documents unique, modernist structures built during a 40-year-period after World War II in what is commonly referred to as our “recent past.” This year, with financial support from the Jocarno Fund, Landmarks Illinois rebuilt and refreshed the Recent Past database, offering improved functionality and expanded search parameters. Visitors are encouraged to explore the updated and extensive database, which to date contains documentation of more than 4,100 commercial, institutional, office and religious structures in 70 municipalities in Cook County, Illinois. Read more about this update here.

Explore the database:

Recent Past Survey


From celebrating the completion of major preservation projects to the people who made them happen, Landmarks Illinois looks back at some of our proudest accomplishments of 2020.

Landmarks Illinois celebrates important preservation project at Chicago's De Priest Home on Martin Luther King Day

Landmarks Illinois hosted a community celebration January 20, 2020, to honor the completion of an important restoration project at the National Historic Landmark, the Oscar Stanton De Priest Apartment Building in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood. The restoration project at the De Priest building began in 2017 when Landmarks Illinois was awarded a $250,000 grant from the National Park Service’s African American Civil Rights Grant Program to carry out essential roof and masonry repairs. Landmarks Illinois was joined by current building owner Kimberly Echols, preservation project partners from Bauer Latoza Studios, Bruno’s Tuckpointing and Ridgeworth Roofing and many members of the community, including Ald. Pat Dowell, (pictured above) for the celebration, which took place first outside the De Priest Apartment Building before moving to nearby Mt. Pisgah Missionary Baptist Church.

See more pictures from the event here:

Community Celebration

Rehabilitated Old Cook County Hospital reopens, wins Landmarks Illinois 2020 preservation award

Landmarks Illinois spent more than 22 years advocating for the preservation of the Old Cook County Hospital — the grand Beaux Arts structure spanning two city blocks on Chicago’s Near West Side. In 2020, we proudly celebrated the completion of the massive rehabilitation project at the long-vacant hospital. This summer, the former hospital had its grand reopening as a hotel, retail and office complex, and in the fall, the project was honored with a 2020 Landmarks Illinois Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Preservation Award.

Watch our video shown during the 2020 preservation awards ceremony highlighting the project here. 

Learn more about the rehabilitation of Old Cook County Hospital and Landmarks Illinois’ decades-long efforts to save it:

Cook County Hospital Rehabilitation

Legendary Landmarks Celebration 15th Anniversary

Landmarks Illinois held its 15th annual Legendary Landmarks Celebration March 5, 2020, at the Hilton Chicago. The event, which is Landmarks Illinois’ biggest fundraiser of the year, honored 2020 Legendary Landmarks Matthew & Daniel Walsh of The Walsh Group, Timuel D. Black Jr., and Joseph P. Gromacki (pictured above left to right). Guests at the annual event also helped raise $840,000 for Landmarks Illinois, $135,000 of which came directly from the evening’s paddle raise fundraiser!

Learn more about the celebration, see photos of the event and more:

2020 LLC

Director of Advocacy Lisa DiChiera marks 20 years at Landmarks Illinois

This year, Lisa DiChiera celebrated 20 years working for Landmarks Illinois. A Detroit native, Lisa has devoted two decades to helping people in Illinois save the places that matter to them and their communities. In our February 2020 edition of The Arch newsletter, we featured an interview with Lisa where she reflects on her years as Director of Advocacy leading the organization’s major preservation efforts.

Lisa with her husband John and son Julian at a Prentice Hospital preservation rally (left) and Lisa with Charlie Pipal and preservation supporters at a protest in 1995 to save Chicago’s 600 block of N. Michigan Avenue.


Read the interview


Highlighting some of the once endangered and forgotten places that were saved this year.

Booth Cottage, Glencoe

In September, former Landmarks Illinois Most Endangered site, the Booth Cottage in Glencoe, was officially moved onto its new foundation on public park land, cementing its preservation. The Frank Lloyd Wright-designed cottage previously sat on private property owned by a developer that sought demolition. (Photo credit: Mark Hertzberg. Courtesy Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy)

Learn more

Illinois Tabernacles & Chautauquas, Freeport and Shelbyville

Two Landmarks Illinois 2018 Most Endangered sites, the Shelbyville Chautauqua and the Freeport Tabernacle, are both on the path to preservation. In November, restoration work officially began on the Chautauqua thanks to a large investment by the City of Shelbyville. Work is expected to be complete by summer 2021.

Learn more


And, as of late fall, Friends of the Freeport Park District — a nonprofit Landmarks Illinois has worked with on preservation efforts at the Freeport Tabernacle — was in discussions with the city’s park district officials to negotiate a long-term lease of the former community gathering space. (Photo credit: Jody Coss)

Learn more

Near North Multiple Property Historic District, Chicago

The City of Chicago granted landmark designation this year for the Near North Side Multiple Property Historic District, which protects more than a dozen remaining buildings in one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods. Landmarks Illinois helped fund research for the district’s preliminary landmark designation report, with support from the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation. Landmarks Illinois Director of Advocacy Lisa DiChiera also attended many public meetings alongside preservation partners from Preservation Chicago to advocate for the proposed district. Pictured is DiChiera being interviewed by WTTW in February about the district. (Watch it here)

Learn more

Nordine House, Chicago

On October 1, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks approved landmark designation for the Perkins-Nordine House in the city’s Edgewater neighborhood. This came just months after the home, which previously faced a demolition threat, sold to buyers who promised to preserve it. This followed an over year-long advocacy effort to save the home from demolition in partnership with the Edgewater Historical Society.

Learn more

Special Overlay Character Districts, Chicago

Also in October this year, the City of Chicago approved updates to its Special Character Overlay District ordinance, providing enhanced design guidelines for architecturally unique neighborhoods. The action creates Special Character Overlay Districts, or more widely known as “Neighborhood Conservation Districts,” which Landmarks Illinois has been advocating for since 2014 with Englewood residents and Neighborhood Housing Services. These districts are a powerful preservation tool for properties that do not meet criteria for official historic district designation but are valued by local residents because of their architectural characteristics.

Learn more

Downtown Rock Island

In July, Downtown Rock Island was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The honorary designation provides increased protection and access to financial incentives for more than 140 structures in the eastern Illinois city. The National Register nomination was prepared by Landmarks Illinois Skyline Council Member Erica Ruggiero through architecture firm McGuire Igleski & Associates where she works as a principal. (Photo credit: City of Rock Island Facebook page)

Learn more

Halsted & Willow Gateway, Chicago

In December, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks approved preliminary designation for this group of Victorian-era buildings that sit adjacent to the Sheffield National Register Historic District. Landmarks Illinois included the Halsted-Willow Gateway on its 2014 Most Endangered Historic Places. A 2018 Preservation Heritage grant from Landmarks Illinois also helped Lincoln Central Association hire a consultant to prepare the Chicago Landmark designation report.

Learn more

Additional Landmarks Illinois News

  • Landmarks Illinois awarded a total of $63,500 in funding during 2020 through its grants programs. Twenty-eight individual grants helped support people saving places in Illinois this year.
  • In July, the Illinois Appellate Court issued a favorable opinion in Landmarks Illinois’ ongoing lawsuit to prevent the proposed demolition of the historic Rock Island County Courthouse, included on the 2018 & 2019 Most Endangered Historic Places lists. The Appellate Court’s opinion agreed with Landmarks Illinois’ argument that Rock Island County cannot defy state agencies and must comply with the Illinois State Historic Resources Preservation Act in its pursuit to demolish the historic courthouse. Read more about this news here.
  • This summer, the Skyline Council of Landmarks Illinois welcomed new leadership: Liz Peterson, Chair; Katherine Pohl, Vice Chair; and Paul Tzanetopoulos, Secretary.
  • Skyline Council & Landmarks Illinois Board of Directors member Allison Toonen-Talamo received the American Express Aspire Award presented by the National Trust for Historic Preservation this fall. Learn more about Allison and the award here.
  • The 1908 Springfield Race Riot site was added to the National Park Service’s African American Civil Rights network in August, a designation that brings it closer to national landmark protection. Landmarks Illinois, particularly Springfield Office Director Frank Butterfield, has long been involved in the effort to protect this nationally significant site. Learn more here.
  • In December, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks granted preliminary landmark designation for the Miracle House in the Galewood neighborhood. With volunteer Dan Lempa, Landmarks Illinois helped prepare the designation report for this Belli & Belli-designed midcentury home.
  • With residents of the 1000 Block of South Claremont, Landmarks Illinois received a Commission on Chicago Landmarks’ 2020 Preservation Excellence Award for advocacy for the successful grassroots effort to landmark this block of early Queen Anne-style cottages.
  • To better serve our constituents — especially as Landmarks Illinois staff works at home during the pandemic — we launched an updated and improved “FAQ” webpage. The new page provides more robust and targeted answers to our most frequently asked questions. Check it out here.




Download the full 2020 Year In Review below:

2020 Year in Review

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