Chicagoland Watch List

September 21, 2007 Chicago Buildings Comments (0) 1042

Landmarks Illinois released its Chicagoland Watch List yesterday – click on the Landmarks Illinois link at right for all the details.

The downtown deal to gut and extend the Chicago Athletic Club upwards is getting the most press because it is the only Loop building, but there are several other notables worth mentioning.

One of my favorites is the River Forest Bank Building, a rare example of a significant Prairie School commercial building, designed by Wright protege William Drummond in 1912. Oak Park and River Forest are rich in Prairie style houses, including those by Wright, but you have to head out to Mason City Iowa if you want to see a comparable Prairie School commercial building. That makes it exceptionally valuable – it is one of my favorite “hidden” Prairie School treasures (along with Van Bergen’s Munyer Apartments and the 700 block of William Street in River Forest) and it adds a dimension to this internationally important design school that could easily be lost.

Thanks to the tanking of the housing market, the building is still here, but the plan is to demolish it as soon as the market picks up. To top it off, River Forest’s toothless preservation ordinance – just adopted – can’t help a building unless the owner consents. Which means it can’t help a building that needs help. Other commercial bulldings – often the most threatened, include the Foley-Rice auto dealership in Oak Park and the Recycled Paper Products building on North Broadway in Chicago.

Another favorite is the Raber House, an 1870 Italianate which illustrates how even landmark protection is limited by the reactive nature of the regulatory process. The building can’t be demolished, but if it isn’t rehabbed soon, it may fall apart. The Illinois Central Hospital has made the list again, as has the mid-century Modern beauty of the Gunner’s Mates building at Great Lakes Naval Base.

I’m not going to list them all, but check it out for yourself at www.landmarks.org. And while you are surfing, don’t forget to vote at www.partnersinpreservation.org!

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