County Hospital

March 3, 2010 Chicago Buildings, Economics, Sustainability, Vision and Style Comments (0) 1480

In Chicago today the news is the unanimous decision of the Cook County Board to rehabilitate the historic Cook County Hospital Building (1914, Paul C. Gephardt) as medical offices. Seven years ago the building was to be demolished after the new John Stroger Hospital replaced it, but Landmarks Illinois and Preservation Chicago and others were able to find enough County Board allies to prevent demolition, and the unanimous action yesterday illustrates the shift. The project also ably illustrates several intriguing aspects of rehabilitating historic buildings. Continue Reading

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Chicagoland Watch

September 17, 2009 Chicago Buildings Comments (0) 1334

Landmarks Illinois has made another splash with its annual Chicagoland Watch List thanks to the high profile Rose House and pavilion in Highland Park, a modernist treat by James Speyer that EVERYONE knows as Cam’s house from the 1980s film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I knew that when I toured the house about 15 years ago. Modernist steel and glass boxes set into one of the suburb’s trademark wooded ravines, the gem is threatened by possible subdivision despite landmark status and a $2.3 million price tag.

You should go to Landmarks Illinois’ website (www.landmarks.org) to see the whole list, which includes a two-lane rural road in McHenry County, the South Side Masonic Temple, and an entire neighborhood’s worth of urbane and sustainable terra cotta and brick treasures at the intersection of Halsted Fullerton and Lincoln: Continue Reading

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Landmarks Gala

March 8, 2009 Chicago Buildings Comments (2) 1210

Did you know that the brownie was invented at the Palmer House? Bertha Honore Palmer wanted a new dessert treat in 1893 and they came up with the brownie. That was one of the fun facts we learned at the Legendary Landmarks Gala last night at the Palmer House; Landmarks Illinois’ annual black tie fundraiser. I am Secretary and Issues Committee Chair for the organization, which this year honored Susan and Lew Manilow, Michael Kutza and Richard Driehaus. Driehaus is a name well known in preservation circles for his sponsorship of Preservation Awards that Landmarks Illinois gives each year. The Manilows are incredible arts supporters (and good dancers, I am happy to say) and actually way ahead of the curve on preservation – Lew Manilow envisioned the North Loop Theatre District way back in 1980 when he sponsored a plan to save the Woods, Harris and Selwyn Theaters. This was WAY ahead of the curve in terms of preservation.
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August

August 3, 2008 Chicago Buildings, Interpretation, Vision and Style Comments (0) 1263

August already in Chicago, normally time for some landmarks shenanigans by the powers that be. At least, that used to be the tradition in the 1980s – announce a big historic-building-damaging project in August when the goo-goos were off in Saugatuck or Door County and couldn’t mount public opposition. That may be less true in the Internet age, because you can get the internet next to the pool in Rowley’s Bay. We shall see if down time dog days produce anything this year, but in the meantime I need to catch up on landmarks news in Illinois…

The big news at Landmarks Illinois is the selection of Jim Peters as the new President of Landmarks Illinois. Peters brings excellent credentials, being an award-winning faculty member of our SAIC Master’s program in historic preservation for seven years, a former Director of the Commission on Chicago Landmarks, and a certified planner with a preservation degree. Jim also knows everyone and knows how to get things done, which is the LI way. I can proudly say I was on the Search Committee that unanimously chose Jim. Continue Reading

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10 most 2008

April 2, 2008 Blog, Chicago Buildings Comments (0) 1029

Today Landmarks Illinois released its 10 Most Endangered Landmarks list for the state, which includes two iconic sports stadia from two eras: Wrigley Field from 1914 and the U of I’s flying-saucer-like Assembly Hall from 1963. Wrigley has been in the news because of the endless string of trial balloons being floated by Tribune owner and 1980s real estate baron Sam Zell, who wants to sell the park and thus floated a balloon saying “Relax landmark status” which got a cold shudder from Mayor Daley and today’s listing.

The idea that you need to relax landmark status must be born of ignorance: WITH landmark status Wrigley just expanded its bleachers onto the sidewalk and it could easily dig out the dugouts, which are comically small. They could probably even wedge more skyboxes in. Has Zell seen all the Chicago Landmarks façade projects underway? Did they think this one through or do any homework? Continue Reading

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Chicagoland Watch List

September 21, 2007 Chicago Buildings Comments (0) 1036

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. Continue Reading

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Children With Matches

November 6, 2006 Chicago Buildings Comments Off on Children With Matches 1125

We don’t let children play with matches. Why do we let idiots play with blowtorches?

Idiocy is a long and storied element of the human condition, and we could hardly have a society without it, so anything that I might say about idiots and idiotic acts should be tempered by my strong belief that idiocy is a vital actor in, and indispensable element of human history. Merken sie sich z.B. unsere Regierung.

For many years I too, suffered fools gladly, but this constant burning down of Louis Sullivan buildings this year has savaged my natural tolerance, especially when both Pilgrim Baptist Church and The Wirt Dexter Building were felled by idiots with torches.

The latest fire – the Harvey House in Lakeview – does not have an official cause yet, so torches can’t be ruled out. It burned really fast and shot flames 50 feet into the air. Torches definitely can’t be ruled out.

Jim Peters of Landmarks Illinois notes that the first two Sullivan buildings burned because someone was using open flames – unnecessary in both cases – inside buildings chock full of really dry timber. Roofers at Pilgrim Baptist and salvagers at Wirt Dexter. In both cases the idiot contractors phoned it in but it was already too late. You can set a hell of a fire with a blowtorch. Continue Reading

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Publicity for Landmarks

October 22, 2006 Chicago Buildings Comments (0) 1235

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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Building Time

November 3, 2005 Chicago Buildings, House Museums, Interpretation Comments Off on Building Time 1425

I had a morning meeting of the Steering Committee for the Farnsworth House, the stunning glass house built in Plano, Illinois by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in 1951. (You can see it on the LPCI website link at right) The house was famously sold at a Sotheby’s auction in December 2003. LPCI and the National Trust hooked up and bought it for over $7 million, saving it from a potential move out of state.

The house is a marvel. Yes, its style is modernist, its materials glass and steel, its entire perimeter floor-to-ceiling glass, but the emotional effect on the visitor is a Greek temple. It is mathematical perfection sitting in the natural perfection of the Fox River floodplain, a perfect little symphony of white I-beams, travertine and spartan, sculptural furnishings. Neither too many notes nor too few. No wonder it was auctioned off like a work of art- that is what it is. Continue Reading

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Da Buildings

September 15, 2005 Chicago Buildings Comments (0) 1325

It is sort of odd that two weeks into this blog I have not yet written about Chicago, where I am, but here is the perfect opportunity: Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois’ 2005 Chicagoland Watch List, a collection of threatened buildings and districts that LPCI is trying to save. The dire dozen includes buildings as far away as Joliet and Aurora, a superb collection of modern ranch houses in Glencoe on the preservation-challenged North Shore, and buildings throughout Chicago, from the Loop to the North, West and South sides. You can see them at www.landmarks.org.

The one they chose to highlight was the one they held the press conference at: The Cermak Road Bridge District. This is a collection of century-old industrial buildings along the Chicago River at Cermak Road (22nd Street), an old riverfront industrial area between Chinatown and Pilsen. It was a smart choice because these are real Chicago buildings, wonderfully muscular brick dreadnoughts grasping the river like a firm handshake or a clap on the shoulder. Da Buildings. Continue Reading

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