Dying hospitals, living pubs

October 8, 2010 Chicago Buildings Comments (0) 1406

So MUCH heritage conservation news in Chicago lately. After the talibanic theft of writing from Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple (see last post below) we now have reports that the one building the city saved at the Michael Reese Hospital site – the original Schmidt Garden Martin Prairie-styled structure from 1907 – is falling apart and beset by squatters. The article in the Tribune quotes a city spokeswoman, when asked why the city hadn’t fixed the roof, responding: “Time, the elements, exposure – all of those things took a toll long before we got into this building.”

I should add that quote above to my recent post on BAD excuses for demolition. You own the building, you own its problems. They did a walk-through in June 2009 and bought it then. Don’t tell me everything suddenly went south. The pioneering Chicago preservationist Richard Nickel once said that the only enemies of historic buildings were water and stupid men. Fact is, the water only gets there if the people look the other way. Continue Reading

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Wrigley Building and other non-landmarks

August 26, 2010 Chicago Buildings Comments (0) 1369

In a week a new school year will start and this blog will celebrate its fifth birthday. It is August 2010, and in the old days August was a time when people were vacationing and out of the office and out of touch with the media so it used to be a good time to tear down buildings or approve plans that might not otherwise have public support. I don’t see that this summer in Chicago, but there are landmarks in the news.

First, a moment to honor the passing of Phil Krone, political insider and dedicated preservationist, who led the first urban pioneers (according to the obituary Wednesday, he coined the term “urban pioneer”) to restore the 1500 block of West Jackson Boulevard, the sole west side historic district in the early days. This is one of the city’s smaller historic districts, but it is significant – a rare remnant of a thriving exclusive 19th century neighborhood. Krone didn’t stop there – I remember him telephoning me in 1989 with some idea about how to save some landmarks we were striving to preserve at Landmarks Illinois, and he telephoned me again last year with ideas about how to save the Gropius buildings at Michael Reese Hospital. In the late 90s it seemed he was at all the meetings of the Illinois Historic Sites Advisory Council, listing buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. He was a true friend of preservation and will be missed. Continue Reading

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Landmark houses in different places

September 20, 2009 Chicago Buildings, Economics, Historic Districts Comments (0) 1130

Here is a lovely 1920s William Drummond home in River Forest that was recently sold for a few nickels shy of a million dollars as a teardown. Drummond was one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s longtime apprentices in the Prairie era, and he lived in River Forest, where he designed numerous Prairie homes, a church, the library and the women’s club, now an award-winning private home. His 1920s designs featured these long sweeping rooflines that blended the continuity of modernity with formal nods to the traditional styles like Tudor that had captured popular taste in the period. This is one of a small number he did in River Forest, and it is gorgeous. It has a lot of interior layout issues, due to the integral garage, but it is unfortunate that a competent designer was not hired to make the house work for modern needs. You don’t need a competent designer for a teardown – anyone at all can do that. It is simpler. It takes no thinking or endeavor, only money. Continue Reading

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July in Chicago: Landmark Updates

July 20, 2009 Chicago Buildings Comments (0) 1064

Well, it is 40 years since the moon landing, and lots of other things, like Sesame Street, Wal-Mart and Woodstock, and yes, things from that era are already being preserved – indeed the photo above I took in London in 1982. I took the photo below in 1983 in Manhattan, and captioned it in 1984 and I was struck by how much that caption is identical to the sentiments I express in this blog 25 years later. Continue Reading

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Catching Up and Staying Warm

February 4, 2008 Chicago Buildings, History, Technology Comments (0) 1304

Photo is copyright Felicity Rich, which explains its quality compared to most of the ones I post….

Okay, three weeks on the road plus the pressures of moving both our program studios and my home left me a little winded and even ill late last week so the blogs are a little behind, hence a few brief bits of catch-up:

All that air travel tempts one, despite good upbringing, to read airline magazines and one had a listing of wacky tourist attractions like the largest ball of twine and guess what – two Illinois sites which Landmarks Illinois has supported, were pictured! The Collinsville Ketchup bottle water tower, which we gave a grant to a while back, and the Berwyn Car Spindle, which is now threatened… Continue Reading

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Publicity for Landmarks

October 22, 2006 Chicago Buildings Comments (0) 1243

Last week, Landmarks Illinois announced its Chicagoland Watch List, a collection of endangered buildings including the Chicago Defender Building (Illinois Automobile Club) at 24th and Michigan in the Motor Row district, which has been stripped and is sitting dangerously empty.

The list, like Landmarks’ 10 Most Endangered List, Preservation Chicago’s “Chicago Seven” and the National Trust’s Eleven Most Endangered list, is a way to publicize important historic and architectural landmarks that are threatened in one way or another.

For those who think landmark status prevents demolition or alteration of buildings, these lists can be sobering – many of the Chicagoland Watch List buildings ARE landmarks – and are still threatened. Landmark status provides a review process that presumes preservation, but it does not prevent demolition or alteration in many cases, depending on the nature of the threat, the building, or even the commission reviewing it. Continue Reading

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Why The City Won’t Landmark Berghoff

February 1, 2006 Chicago Buildings Comments Off on Why The City Won’t Landmark Berghoff 1102

One of my former students felt sorry for the Berghoffs and wrote me a note saying they should be allowed to cash in their building since they worked hard for 107 years. Indeed, they survived Prohibition and worked hard and built a business successful enough to save a landmark building. If we had that fabulous Italianate building sitting empty today, we would have to invent a business as successful as the Berghoff in order to keep it going. I’ve worked hard too, and like most humans who work hard, I will never earn what the Berghoffs earn. So I don’t feel sorry.

The City of Chicago won’t landmark the Berghoff building, despite its extremely rare status as a Loop 1870s building. In the Chicago Landmarks ordinance there is a “second bite” amendment that says you can’t landmark a building if you failed to landmark it before – unless there is a serious change in evidence or circumstances. Continue Reading

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