Preservation News Roundup: November 2019

The monthly Landmarks Illinois News Roundup keeps you in the loop on the latest preservation news stories from the month as well as LI’s 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.

Judge hears oral arguments for LI's appeal in lawsuit to save historic Rock Island County Courthouse

Landmarks Illinois’ pro bono attorneys from Jenner and Block presented oral arguments November 6 in the Illinois Third District Appellate Court for LI’s lawsuit to prevent unlawful demolition of the historic Rock Island County Courthouse.

Earlier this year, LI and five other plaintiffs, including the National Trust for Historic Preservation, filed a lawsuit against the Rock Island County Board and Public Building Commission regarding the county’s proposed plan of tearing down the 123-year-old courthouse.

Residents of Rock Island continue to call on the County Board to evaluate the private reuse of the courthouse, including in a recent letter to the editor. Landmarks Illinois remains willing to work with the county on a Request for Proposals process as a way to avoid continued litigation. Unfortunately, the county has indicated that it will wait to hear the outcome of the appeal.

Read more in the news:

IL Justices to Hear Arguments in Rock Island Co. Courthouse Case
WVIK, November 5

Wait Continues for Rock Island Co. Courthouse Future
WVIK, November 6

Appeal hearing on fate of Rock Island County courthouse held in Ottawa
Dispatch Argus, November 6


LI continues to work with local advocates & partners to find a preservation solution for Thompson Center

As the state continues to move forward with selling the James R. Thompson Center, Landmarks Illinois has ramped up efforts to push for a preservation solution for the Post Modern icon in Chicago’s Loop – named to LI’s Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois for the past three years. This includes working with local advocates and partner organizations like the new James R. Thompson Center Historical Society.


JRTCHS is offering free public tours inside the state-owned building. The next tour is scheduled for December 5 at noon.

The Thompson Center also gained national attention this month from the New York Times. In an article published November 20, Chicago photographer, author and architecture critic Lee Bey tells the NYT why the Helmut Jahn-designed building is so unique and deserves to be preserved.

Read more in the news:

Thompson Center is a gem — preserve it
Chicago Sun-Times, November 20

Looking at Where Chicago Works
New York Times, November 20

A group of scrappy preservationists offers free tours of threatened Thompson Center
Curbed, November 1

Condition Assessment Report shows Joliet's former St. Mary Church in stable condition

Landmarks Illinois sponsored a condition assessment report for the former St. Mary’s Carmelite Church in Joliet – a historic church LI included on its 2005 Chicagoland Watch List and now faces a threat of being possibly demolished if not landmarked.

The report, prepared by Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc., was completed in time for a November 20 hearing where the Joliet Historic Preservation Commission considered landmark designation for the church. The commission voted to continue the public hearing to December and requested more information from city planning staff about incentive programs that may be available for possible reuse. According to the condition assessment report, St. Mary’s is “in serviceable condition” and “should be considered for adaptive reuse.”

The report and other documents from the hearing can be found here.

Landmarks Illinois urges Joliet residents to voice support for this important downtown historic building at the next Historic Preservation Commission hearing and to City Council members.

Information on future Joliet Historic Preservation Commission meetings can be found here.


What else LI has been up to this month...

  • Landmarks Illinois Director of Advocacy Lisa DiChiera led the Fall 2019 Chicago Suburban Preservation Alliance meeting November 2 in Lake Forest. The bi-annual meeting of suburban preservation partners was hosted by the City of Lake Forest and the Lake Forest Preservation Foundation and included a panel discussion and walking tour of Lake Forest’s historic downtown.
  • DiChiera also attended a November 5 meeting in Evanston where two draft proposals for reuse of the historic Harley Clarke Mansion were presented. The City of Evanston has requested proposals for long-term lease, rehabilitation and reuse of the historic house and coach house. RFPs are due February 28, 2020. LI has issued an updated condition assessment of the historic property, named to LI’s Most Endangered Historic Places in 2016, for parties interested in submitting a proposal. Read the report, prepared by Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc. here.
  • Skyline Council – Landmarks Illinois’ young & emerging professionals committee – hosted its annual signature event, the Skyline Social, November 6. Nearly 200 young professionals and Skyline and Landmarks Illinois supporters gathered at Wintrust’s Grand Banking Hall in Chicago. Check out photos from the popular event here.
  • Skyline Council also kicked off a special mural project at The Forum in Bronzeville, led by the Skyline Council Service Subcommittee. The first mural designed by artist Sam Kirk features Nat King Cole. The goal of the art installation project is to activate the historic and culturally significant site, which LI included on its Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois in 2018.
  • Landmarks Illinois hosted two Preservation Snapshots Lectures this month. Our November 7 lecture, led by Steven Vance, focused on accessory dwelling units. On November 18, LI hosted Myrick Howard, President of Preservation North Carolina for a lecture focused on how preservation can achieve accessibility and affordability. Howard also spoke about PNC’s mission and work at LI’s Board of Director’s meeting on November 19.
  • special VIP tour on November 13 of 2019 Landmarks Illinois Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Preservation Award winning project, the Lofts on Arthington, gave LI staff, board members and supporters the chance to see inside the rehabilitated, 111-year-old former Sear’s Catalogue Printing building in Homan Square. Mercy Housing Lakefront has transformed the once vacant space into safe, affordable housing for nearly 400 residents.
  • Landmarks Illinois was saddened to see the historic Eastlawn School in Paxton demolished earlier this month. LI’s Springfield Office Director Frank Butterfield had been working with local advocates to put pressure on the local school district from possibly proceeding with demolition of the school without proper permits. Local newspaper, Ford County Herald, put together a timeline of the controversial demolition project as well as an article explaining the the confusion around it.
  • In Chicago, Landmarks Illinois continues to work with advocates to promote the significance of the Ken Nordine House in Edgewater as well as push for preservation of the culturally significant house.
  • Landmarks Illinois President & CEO Bonnie McDonald was interviewed November 18 by NBC 5 Chicago for a feature on photographer and author Lee Bey and his new book on south side architecture, “Southern Exposure.” You can watch the piece, featured on the evening news, here.


You can download the entire November 2019 Landmarks Illinois Preservation News e-newsletter here:

November 2019 Preservation News Roundup

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