Preservation News Roundup: March 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.

Strong opposition helps strike down detrimental zoning ordinance proposal discouraging house museums in Chicago

Late last year, Chicago 4th Ward Ald. Sophia King introduced a proposed zoning ordinance amendment that would have made establishing cultural exhibits like house museums and arts or humanities exhibits in residential-zoned districts extremely difficult and costly. When Landmarks Illinois recently learned of the ordinance proposal and its potential broad negative impacts on small nonprofits working to rehabilitate historic buildings in Chicago, such as the Muddy Waters House and the Emmett Till and Mamie Till Mobley Home, it took immediate action, voicing opposition and explaining the detrimental effects it would have. (Read our March 6 letter to the city here.) We also asked for help from our supporters to join us in voicing opposition. Thank you to all Chicago residents and partner organizations who responded to this important call to action and reached out to your alderman and Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards Committee Chair Tom Tunney urging them to strike down the proposal.

The committee was scheduled to discuss Ald. King’s proposal at its March 23 meeting. However, at the top of the meeting, King announced she would withdrawal her proposal for now to allow for “further discussion with the community as a whole. “I understand the need for clarity on the legislation and am willing to further engage with community members and activists in this process,” King said, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Bonnie McDonald, President & CEO of Landmarks Illinois, made a public comment at the March 23 meeting, thanking Ald. King for removing her proposal from consideration.

Our research showed more than 30 existing or planned cultural exhibits citywide would have been impacted…The coalition of partners speaking and watching today opposing this ordinance shows how much these organizations matter to their communities. We all believe there should be a future for cultural exhibits in residential zoned districts,” McDonald said at the meeting.

(Photo: The nonprofit Muddy Waters Original Jam Out (MOJO) Museum, for example, is currently working to transform the former North Kenwood home of Blues legend Muddy Waters (pictured above) into a cultural museum.)

Read more in the news:

An alderman’s bid to restrict house museums is withdrawn — and should stay that way
Chicago Sun-Times Editorial, March 24

King withdraws house museum ordinance, will have ‘further discussion’ within ward
Hyde Park Herald, March 23

Alderman withdraws ordinance that would have restricted ‘house museums’
Chicago Sun-Times, March 23

Lightfoot Tosses Cold Water on Plan to Require Special Permission for House Museums
WTTW, March 22

Residential Museum Ban Would Be ‘Death Knell’ For South Side Preservation, Black History Museums And Gallery Spaces, Critics Say
Chicago Block Club, March 18

Groups oppose bid to require city approval for museums like those planned for Emmett Till, Muddy Waters homes
Chicago Tribune, March 18

read LI's statements

50Forward: Watch all the original video content debuted at our 50th Anniversary Celebration!

Nearly 500 people tuned in Thursday, March 25 for our virtual spring fundraiser, 50Forward. The 50th anniversary event helped raise more than $616,000 for Landmarks Illinois’ mission-driven advocacy work. Check out all the videos shown at 50Forward below, including a full recording of the live event. You can also visit the “LI at 50” playlist at the Landmarks Illinois YouTube Channel to watch and share the content below!

Watch the videos

Rock Island County votes against reuse proposal for historic courthouse

Despite strong public support for potentially reusing the historic Rock Island County Courthouse (pictured) as a federal courthouse, the Rock Island County Board voted March 22 against an agreement that would allow a private developer’s proposal to move forward.

The historic Rock Island County Courthouse, included on Landmarks Illinois’ 2018 & 2019 Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois, was under consideration by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) in its search as the next site of federal court operations for the Central District of Illinois. Landmarks Illinois, which with the National Trust for Historic Preservation sued the Rock Island County Board and Rock Island County Public Building Commission in 2019 to prevent demolition of the courthouse, has advocated for reuse of the building as a federal courthouse.

Joe Lemon, of QC Offices Real Estate Holdings, offered to purchase the historic county courthouse for $250,000 while allowing the county to maintain ownership of the underlying land. As the Quad City Times reported, Lemon only had until the afternoon of March 23 to turn in a signed purchase agreement to the GSA proving he had ownership of the building in order for it to be considered for redevelopment as the new federal courthouse.
Landmarks Illinois is disappointed the proposal was not accepted by the county board. Regarding the lawsuit Landmarks Illinois filed with its fellow plaintiffs in 2019 to stop demolition of the courthouse, the consultation process as required by state law and upheld by the Illinois Appellate Court is currently ongoing.

Read more in the news:

Rock Island County board rejects agreement to sell old courthouse to Joe Lemon
Quad City Times, March 23

Rock Island County board rejects proposal to sell courthouse to developer Joe Lemon
Our Quad Cities, March 22

Rock Island County Board votes on courthouse proposal
KWQC, March 22

Rock Island County board agrees to “explore” negotiations with Joe Lemon on purchase of courthouse
Quad City Times, March 16

Rock Island County board reverses course on old courthouse; discussions move forward as possible federal courthouse
Quad City Times, March 10

Federal government wants tour of old Rock Island County courthouse, but county won’t allow it
Quad City Times, March 4


2021 Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois announcement

Landmarks Illinois will announce this year’s list of top Illinois historic endangered places at a virtual announcement on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 at noon. The public is welcome to join the free virtual presentation.

More details and registration coming soon!

(Photo: Landmarks Illinois President & CEO Bonnie McDonald being interviewed by press at the 2019 Most Endangered announcement in Springfield.)

Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois

Nonprofit Artist Book House chosen for reuse of historic Harley Clarke Mansion in Evanston

The Evanston City Council voted this month to enter into lease negotiations with the nonprofit Artist Book House for a long-term lease of the historic Harley Clarke Mansion (pictured), included on Landmarks Illinois’ 2016 Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois. The vote comes after years-long debate about the future of the historic property on Evanston’s lakefront.

Artist Book House was one among four organizations to submit a proposal to the City of Evanston for a long-term lease and reuse of the Harley Clarke Mansion property. Evanston Community Lakehouse & GardensEvanston Conservancy and ONE Community Museum also submitted proposals. Artist Book House plans to restore the historic mansion and reuse it for educational programming and public use. “This will include print, paper and book binding studios, conference rooms and classrooms for teaching writing and for hosting book groups and a papermaker’s garden,” the nonprofit’s website states. “A café serving light fare, an art gallery and a bookstore will be open to the public. Additional public programming, such as artist talks, author readings and poetry slams, will be scheduled to coincide with the academic year to avoid conflicts with parking for those visiting the beach.”

Read more in the news:

City Council votes to move forward with Artists Book House’s plan for Harley Clarke Mansion
Daily Northwestern, March 10

Artists Book House Harley Clarke Proposal Approved By Aldermen
Evanston Patch, March 8

New on the LI Blog

    Learn how the Landmarks Illinois’ Easement Committee helps oversee the organization’s 540 preservation easement properties. Read more


    Director of Landmarks Illinois’ Springfield Office Frank Butterfield writes about the need to amplify lesser-known stories of our past in our state’s capital. Read more


    Longtime Landmarks Illinois Board Members Martin Tangora and Will Tippens, ask each other about their decades of service to the organization. Read more
Visit the LI Blog

Illinois loses a preservation champion

Landmarks Illinois was incredibly saddened to hear of the passing this month of Richard H. Driehaus. He was a steadfast supporter of our organization and a preservation champion across Illinois and the nation. Since 1994, the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation has funded the Landmarks Illinois annual preservation award program. Additionally, a $1 million gift from The Richard H. Driehaus Charitable Lead Trust launched Landmarks Illinois’ Richard H. Driehaus Courthouse Initiative in 2009 to provide matching grants to county governments to restore their historic courthouses.

Mr. Driehaus’ love for architecture and historic preservation, among other causes, was seen through his commendable philanthropic efforts, as well as his own preservation projects. Historic places all across Illinois are still standing today because of his creative vision and unwavering generosity. Mr. Driehaus will be greatly missed, and through our work, Landmarks Illinois will be sure to honor him and his passion for protecting places of our past.

(Photo: Mr. Driehaus at the 2018 Landmarks Illinois Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Preservation Awards. Mr. Driehaus’ foundation has generously funded Landmarks Illinois’ annual awards program for the last nearly 30 years.)

Read more in the news:

Richard Driehaus, Stock-Market Daredevil, Preserved Traditional Architecture
Wall Street Journal, March 25
Richard H. Driehaus, Champion of Classic Architecture, Dies at 78
New York Times, March 20
Chicago’s Richard Driehaus: Remembering a vibrant, world-changing force
Chicago Sun-Times, March 12

Richard Driehaus, Chicago philanthropist and architecture patron, dies at 78
The Art Newspaper, March 11

Apply for a Landmarks Illinois grant!

Grant applications due: April 15

Landmarks Illinois has three grant programs:

The next round of applications for each grant program are due April 15.

Click below to learn if you and your preservation project qualify for funding and how to submit an application.

Apply for a grant

Additional Landmarks Illinois news

  • Landmarks Illinois led the state delegation in virtual Congressional meetings this month as part of Preservation Action’s 2021 Advocacy Week. This year’s topics included how historic tax credit improvements can help boost the economy following COVID, increased support to the Historic Preservation Fund and designating the 1908 Springfield Race Riot Site and New Philadelphia as units of the National Park Service. We thank our elected officials and their staffs for their continued support of preservation in Illinois, and our members and supporters who joined us for a successful Advocacy Week!
  • The Commission on Chicago Landmarks will discuss final landmark recommendation of the historic Pentecostal Church of Holiness at its April 1 meeting. Written comments to the commission are due today at 12:45 p.m. The commission previously approved preliminary landmark recommendation for the North Lawndale church. Landmarks Illinois also awarded the congregation a Preservation Heritage Fund Grant in September 2020 to help pay for priority repairs of the structure. Landmarks Illinois Influencers Ed Gerns and Jack Tribbia – recently honored at 50Forward – have both provided additional technical assistance to help prioritize necessary repairs at the church.

Download the full February 2021 edition of our Preservation News Roundup below


Support our advocacy

Be a voice for the future of our communities by supporting Landmarks Illinois. Our work enhances communities, empowers citizens, promotes local economic development and offers environmentally sound solutions.

Become A Member