Group recognizes endangered landmarks

By mlekovic

The city of Chicago has an abundance of historical buildings, and some are reportedly in danger of being demolished because of deterioration, lack of maintenance and insufficient funds.

Every year, Landmarks Illinois, the state’s leading voice for historic preservation, publishes a list of the top 10 historical places in Illinois that are in danger of being demolished.

The list is published to show awareness and get attention from certain communities to take action in order to save the buildings.

Instead of demolishing the buildings, Landmarks Illinois would like to refurbish them. This year, two sites hail from Cook County: Michael Reese Hospital and Prentice Women’s Hospital.

Jim Peters, president and CEO of Landmarks Illinois, said the sites are chosen six months prior to the publishing date in a nomination process from Illinois citizens, various historic groups and board members. Some citizens don’t care about the buildings or what happens to them, but others take action by voting for the list nominees, according to Peters.

“We don’t want to choose a building at the last minute where it’s too late to do something,” Peters said.  “We want [a building] that really does have a threat.”

One particular Cook County site on the brink of being demolished is the Michael Reese Hospital, 2929 S. Ellis Ave. The Near South Side lakefront complex has been identified as the site of the proposed 2016 Olympic Village. The buildings wouldn’t have to be demolished in order to construct the Olympic Village, but the committee has showed interest in tearing them down.

“The original Reese Hospital building is an excellent and rare example of a Prairie School-style institutional structure,” Peters said. “We believe a re-use study needs to be done before this or the other significant buildings are demolished.”

The city of Chicago has issued a request for qualifications (RSQ) to demolition contractors for the demolition of all 29 properties at the Reese campus. The RSQ does not guarantee that the site and properties will be demolished, but it gives Landmarks Illinois a sense of urgency to save the building.

Since Reese Hospital is the site of the proposed 2016 Olympic Village, the Olympic committee wants to demolish the buildings before the games arrive, Landmark Illinois members said.

“The city has acquired the Reese campus site because they want the Olympic Village to go there,” said Lisa DiChiera, director of advocacy for Landmark Illinois. “These are buildings that absolutely have re-use potential for athletic facilities.”

A reoccurring problem Landmark Illinois sees is the potential demolition of these historic places to benefit the Olympic Village, but without confirmation that the city will indeed host the 2016 Olympic game.

“They really want to push demolition for the better part of the summer, as where we’re not to learn the outcome of the bid until fall,” DiChiera said.

The top 10 endangered list shows residents of Illinois the historic structures in danger of demolishment. Preservation Chicago, a similar group to Landmark Illinois, but with the focus on only Chicago buildings, releases an annual Chicago Seven list, which is a list of the top seven most endangered buildings in Chicago. The Chicago Seven list comes out six months prior to Landmarks Illinois’ list.

“Buildings tell a story of the society, and when a city does not have a collection of historic buildings from different periods, it’s very hard for that city to maintain any story,” said Jonathan Fine, executive director of Preservation Chicago. “A city really loses its soul when its historical architecture is demolished.”

In an effort to save these historic landmarks in Chicago, as well as in Illinois, preservation groups urge citizens to get active in the fight against demolition by donating to these organizations, as well as contacting the right people to make sure voices are being heard and problems are being dealt with.

Along with saving the buildings, Landmark Illinois, as well as Preservation Chicago members, believe it will create more jobs, which is highly needed in this economy.

Instead of hiring private demolition contractors like the city of Chicago is trying to do, Peters suggests fixing the places will create jobs for citizens who desperately need the work.

“Instead of demolishing all of the historic monuments, it’s wiser to fix them up because it saves the monument, along with creating jobs,” Peters said.

For more information about Landmarks Illinois or the top endangered list visit For more information about Preservation Chicago visit