At noon on Wednesday, February 28, Preservation Chicago released its annual Chicago 7 list of most endangered buildings. Each year for the past 15 years, the local historic preservation advocacy organization has used this list to draw the public’s attention to threatened elements of Chicago’s built environment. Whether they face specific and urgent threats, or longer-term and more diffuse ones, failing to preserve these places would erase important parts of Chicago’s history and harm the distinctive and celebrated built environment of the city.
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As the race to capitalize on this current real estate cycle continues, landmark status is often the only effective tool to preserve historically important structures. Preservation-minded real estate buyers also continue to affect real change in preservation efforts.
Every year brings new buildings and the demolition of others–it’s the continuous cycle that transforms inanimate structures into the growing and evolving organism of a city. In times of wealth and prosperity the number of construction and demolition permits grow, and in times of recession they dwindle.
Last year this cycle repeated largely as it has in years past. But there were a few themes in the destruction of Chicago’s architectural heritage: late 19th century Worker’s Cottages, grand South Side homes, Italianate row houses, and a few sparkling Victorians on the North Side.
It wasn’t all losses in 2016–there were a few wins, particularly neglected or damaged churches that will live on through adaptive reuse.