Preservation News Roundup: August 2021

The monthly Landmarks Illinois News Roundup keeps you in the loop on the latest preservation news stories from the month as well as Landmarks Illinois’ main advocacy efforts, projects and announcements. You can also receive these monthly news roundups directly in your inbox by signing up for our newsletters at the bottom of the page.

Landmarks Illinois launches new database: 'Women Who Built Illinois'

Landmarks Illinois has published an online database, Women Who Built Illinois, which includes information on over 100 female architects, engineers, developers, designers, builders, landscape architects, interior designers and clients and their projects between 1879 and 1979.

“This new database recognizes those who laid the path for women today and who continue to impact the built environment of Illinois and Chicago. We hope students and professionals in architecture, planning and public history will be inspired to study these women, their careers and built works.” – Lisa DiChiera, Landmarks Illinois Director of Advocacy

The first-of-its-kind database is the result of an in-depth survey of women in architecture, real estate and design-related fields led by Lisa DiChiera of Landmarks Illinois, Erica Ruggiero, Principal at McGuire Igleski & Associates, Inc., and Landmarks Illinois intern Cray Kennedy. The database highlights the women who helped to create places that today are cherished by communities and property owners across Illinois, yet many remain unprotected without local landmark status or lack National Register designation that would provide opportunities for important financial preservation incentives.
The database also serves as a call to action for local historic preservation commissions and municipal planning departments to evaluate and prioritize places identified in the Women Who Built Illinois survey for local landmark and/or National Register designations. Landmarks Illinois welcomes additional research on women in the survey for whom more information is needed. Read our press release announcing this new database.

(Photo:  Jane Johnson (Graham), Head of Interiors Department, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill 1957-1960. Courtesy SOM.)

Read more in the news:

Landmarks Illinois launches database of pioneering Prairie State women in architecture, engineering, and design
The Architect’s Newspaper, August 23

A new database is tracking contributions of women to the architecture of Illinois
Archinect, August 19

New Landmarks Illinois database highlights more than 100 women who built Illinois
Chicago Construction News, August 18

New database highlights over 100 women who built Illinois
Alton Telegraph, August 18

Explore the database

Two historic Chicago properties one step closer to landmark designation

On August 5, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks voted to recommend to City Council landmark designation for the Halsted & Willow Gateway in Lincoln Park as well as the Muddy Waters Home in North Kenwood. Both landmark recommendations now move to the full Chicago City Council for approval.

Halsted & Willow Gateway

Halsted and Willow Streets in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood is home to four Victorian-era buildings on three of the corners, serving as a gateway to the Sheffield neighborhood and sitting adjacent to the Sheffield National Register Historic District. Landmarks Illinois listed the Halsted & Willow Gateway and its 1800s-eras buildings on its Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois in 2014 due to the threat of redevelopment. Landmarks Illinois also provided a Preservation Heritage Grant in 2018 to help pay for an architectural historian to prepare a City of Chicago Landmark District designation report.

(Photo by Liz Chilsen)

Muddy Waters House

The former North Kenwood home to Blues Legend Muddy Waters is in the process of being restored and rehabilitated. Included on Landmarks Illinois’ 2013 Most Endangered Historic Places list, the home has suffered from deterioration and once faced foreclosure and demolition. Today, a Landmarks Illinois grant recipient, the Muddy Waters Original Jam Out (MOJO) Museum, is working to transform the house into a museum and cultural center.

Read more in the news:

Muddy Waters’ Kenwood Home Clears Major Hurdle Toward Chicago Landmark Status
Block Club Chicago, August 5

Muddy Waters home gets final Landmarks Commission approval, moves to City Council
Chicago Sun-Times, August 5


The August 2021 edition of our print newsletter, The Arch, is now available to read in full at our website!

In this issue, we focus on the transformative power of art in historic preservation and how artists are using their work to bring attention to once forgotten, historic spaces throughout Illinois.

On the cover: (From left to right) Artists Kari Black, Sam Kirk and Dorian Sylvain in front of The Forum in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood where their murals of Nat King Cole, Margaret Burroughs and Gwendolyn Brooks have activated the historic site. Credit Lewis Purdy.

Read the newsletter

Thompson Center RFP deadline extended, design competition results

The State of Illinois has extended its RFP deadline for the sale of the post modern James R. Thompson Center in Chicago. The Illinois Department of Central Management Services confirmed this month the new deadline is October 8, 2021, for interested parties to submit a proposal to manage the sale of the state-owned building. Landmarks Illinois has called attention to the iconic structure built in 1984 and designed by Helmut Jahn for the last five years due to the possible threat of demolition and development at the site. It has been included on Landmarks Illinois’ Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois four times since 2017.

Following the building’s inclusion on the 2021 Most Endangered list, Landmarks Illinois President & CEO Bonnie McDonald was asked to participate in a judging panel for the 2021 Chicago Prize Competition, which called for creative reuse design concepts for the Thompson Center. Winners of the competition, announced this month, include designs that reuse the existing building as a water park, a public school and an engaging public space not unlike Landmarks Illinois’ own Thompson Center reuse idea released in 2018.

Read more in the news:

Thompson Center as Water Park? Design Competition Finalists Announced
WTTW, August 25

Splash and flash: Ideas emerge for repurposing the Thompson Center
Chicago Sun-Times, August 24

Illinois extends bid for 1M-sf Thompson Center, suggesting lack of interest from prospective bidders
The Real Deal, August 18

Future of the Thompson Center
WGN Radio, August 5

Upcoming September Events

Skyline Council Logan Square Pub Crawl & Neighborhood Tour / SEPTEMBER 17

Join members of Landmarks Illinois’ Skyline Council for a neighborhood tour of Logan Square that will include stops at historic buildings and local bars and restaurants. Hosted in partnership with Brick of Chicago. (Photo credit: Squatch Media)


Preservation Snapshots Lecture: Guiding Preservation Forward / SEPTEMBER 30

Our next Preservation Snapshots Lecture will be an interactive discussion on the Landmarks Illinois Guiding Principles led by President & CEO Bonnie McDonald.


Illinois losing buildings associated with its 'Recent Past'

A disturbing trend is occurring in Chicago suburban communities: architecturally significant midcentury modern buildings are being torn down or are increasingly facing demolition. The trend shows how vulnerable these buildings continue to be and how important it is for local governments to protect these places or to push for their reuse.

For the past 15 years, Landmarks Illinois has partnered with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Historic Preservation Graduate Program to document thousands of architecturally significant non-residential suburban Chicago buildings dating from 1935 to 1975. We have documented these findings annually in our Recent Past Survey of Suburban Cook County, an extensive database on our website. This month, however, three midcentury modern structures (all documented in our Recent Past Survey) faced demolition threats: the 228-230 Madison St. Building in Oak Park (pictured) and the Mother Guerin and Holy Cross High Schools in River Grove.

228-230 Madison St. Building in Oak Park

The Park District of Oak Park recently purchased the corner building on Madison Street in Oak Park and plans to demolish it to create a gravel parking lot. The Park District awarded a contract for demolition on August 19. Also known as the Drifts Oak Building, it was designed by Oak Park architect Robert Taylor in 1963.

The notable modern building is included in Landmarks Illinois’ Recent Past Survey and is noted in the Madison Street Corridor Architectural Survey conducted by Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc. in 2006. Learn more about the building at our Recent Past database here.

Read more in the news:

Does mid-century matter?
Wednesday Journal, August 23

Mother Guerin and Holy Cross High Schools in River Grove

Demolition is proceeding this month at the high school campus of the Mother Guerin and Holy Cross schools in River Grove. The schools, which opened in the 1960s, closed in 2020 due to declining enrollment. Mother Guerin was an all-girls Catholic high school, created by the Sisters of Providence at the request of the Archdiocese of Chicago, until it merged with Holy Cross in 2014. As the Chicago Tribune recently reported, once the schools closed, the archdiocese sold the property to a developer that plans to demolish the structures to build new townhomes and condominiums. The Sisters of Providence, a registered nonprofit, have started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to preserve historical art on the schools, including the “Our Lady of River Grove” mosaic (pictured) and stained glass windows. Support the campaign here. Learn more about the schools at our Recent Past database here.

Read more in the news:

Alumni of Guerin Prep, the shuttered River Grove high school, are trying to save a mosaic before the wrecking ball hits
Chicago Tribune, July 28

Additional Landmarks Illinois news

  • Much-needed restoration work began at the 2021 Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois site, the Joliet Steel Mill Main Office Building in Joliet. U.S. Steel, the building’s owner, started making repairs to the roof of the 1891 structure that is part of the Joliet Steel Works National Register Historic District. Landmarks Illinois included the building on its 2021 Most Endangered list due to the long-deferred maintenance needs and U.S. Steel’s ongoing neglect of it. Learn more about this 2021 Most Endangered site.
  • The Freeport Park District voted unanimously August 17 to lease the historic Oakdale Tabernacle in Freeport to the local nonprofit, Save the Tabernacle Inc. as the group works to restore the historic structure. Built in 1915, the tabernacle served as an important community gathering space for nearly a century before closing in 2012. Landmarks Illinois included the Oakdale Tabernacle on its 2018 Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois due to the threat of demolition as deferred maintenance left it unusable. Since that time, Landmarks Illinois has continued to work with advocates in Freeport to find a preservation solution for their beloved local landmark. Follow Friends of the Oakdale Tabernacle & Freeport Park District on Facebook for future updates.
  • Landmarks Illinois 2018 Most Endangered site and Preservation Heritage Grant Fund recipient, the Shelbyville Chautauqua in Shelbbyville, is now in the “home stretch” of being repaired and reopen, according to city officials. Restoration work began last November, thanks to a large investment by the City of Shelbyville. Read more in the news about the once threatened historic gathering space.
  • Landmarks Illinois announced this month that three staff members were promoted and/or received new titles: Julie Carpenter, former Office Manager, has been promoted to Programs Manager; Suzanne Germann, previously our Director of Grants & Easements, will now be our Director of Reinvestment; and Tiffanie Williams, longtime Events Manager, will now serve as Director of Corporate Giving & Events. Learn more about this announcement on our LinkedIn page! Make sure to follow us on LinkedIn for future staff announcements!
  • Landmarks Illinois held a special tour of the Old Chicago Post Office in Chicago this month as part of the 2021 Summer Education Series presented by Chase. The small tour group got to see inside the completely rehabilitated former Most Endangered site. Representatives from Gensler, MacRostie Historic Advisors and the Illinois State Historic Preservation Office guided guests through the massive and highly visible Loop landmark that has been preserved and reused as office space for companies like Walgreens and Uber. Global architecture firm Gensler led the transformation of the previously long-vacant 1921 Art Deco structure.
  • “Bucky’s Dome: The Resurrection of R. Buckminster Fuller’s Dome Home” authors authors Cary O’Dell and Thad Heckman will be at Carbondale’s Barnes & Noble Bookstore (1300 East Main Street) Saturday, September 14, 2021, for a book signing. All author proceeds from the book will be donated to the Bucky Fuller Dome Home nonprofit organization for the further restoration and preservation of the Bucky Fuller Dome Home in Carbondale, once listed on Landmarks Illinois’ Most Endangered Historic Places list. Learn more about the unique dome home here.

Download the full August 2021 Preservation News Roundup below

August 2021 Preservation News Roundup

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