Kenilworth, Illinois is a lovely suburb on the North Shore of Chicago with the world’s largest collection of George Maher Prairie houses and a cornucopia of other architectural and planning delights. It also made the National Trust’s Most Endangered List because of teardowns. That is rare notoriety in a nation beset with teardowns. You gotta have something goin’ on to be one of the eleven most endangered sites in the United States.
So, the village came up with a clever plan: list the town on the National Register of Historic Places. This adds NO regulation to homeowners and provides NO protection against teardowns, but addresses the media embarassment. It also would allow ONLY THOSE HOMEOWNERS WHO WANT TO to take advantage of the Illinois Property Tax Assessment Freeze program. Upside without a downside. Continue Reading
The National Register of Historic Places has been around for 42 years and includes thousands of buildings. It was designed as a speed bump for Federal highway and urban renewal programs whose clear-cut approach to development in the 1950s and early 1960s had excited opposition. It remains as powerful today as it was 42 years ago: as powerful as a speed bump.
The National Register cannot prevent anyone from demolishing anything. There. The secret is out. It can slow down any project which is funded or licensed by the federal government, and often in those cases, buildings get saved. Not always. Only local landmarks laws can stop an owner from demolishing a building. That was true in 1966 and it is true today.
So, why are people in Oak Park and Kenilworth getting bent out of shape about National Register districts? Kenilworth, a wealthy community that made the National Trust’s 11 Most Endangered List thanks to a teardown frenzy, had its Village Board vote 4-2 in favor of putting the town on the National Register only to have the Village President veto it. The Board has apparently studied the facts and is overruling the veto. Continue Reading