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.
Themes this year are similar to the last, with a new look at buildings facing an uncertain future. As always with the end-of-year retrospective, our look at preservation wins and losses is but a small slice of what happened in the past year.
Contributions this year are from Eric Allix Rogers [EAR], Rachel Freundt [RF], Noah Vaughn [NV], John Morris [JM], and Gabriel X. Michael [GXM].
- Changes in 2017
- Buildings Lost or Facing Demolition
- Worker’s Cottages and Italianate Flats
- Italianate Commercial and Mixed-Use Buildings
- Neoclassical and Victorian Era
- Art Deco and Modern
- Landmarks and Other Unique Losses
- Endangered Places
- Saved from Demolition
Changes in 2017
But before getting into specific places, let’s look at a couple of other things that changed in 2017 that will have an impact on historic preservation.
Last year local digital news outfit DNAinfo was abruptly shuttered by its owner. For years DNAinfo served as the only outlet that covered zoning changes, neighborhood meetings, and preservation issues, among others. There were a number of places that were directly or indirectly saved as a result of their objective news coverage.
One of the most visible and direct actions is their coverage of the James von Natta Farmhouse, which led to a reversal of an earlier decision by the owner to demolish it. Countless other stories brought to light by DNAinfo contributed to actions that increased awareness of the importance of historic preservation or led to a positive action.
The Federal Historic Tax Credit is one of the federal government’s most successful and cost-effective community revitalization programs. It has also experienced widespread bipartisan support. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act retains the 20% Federal Historic Tax Credit, but diminishes its value parceling out the credit over five years. While this doesn’t necessarily mean that historic buildings like the Rosenwald Court Apartments or the Chicago Athletic Association won’t be rehabbed, there is less of an urgent financial incentive to do so.
The bigger loss is the elimination of the 10% pre-1936 “old building” credit, which has fewer restrictions regarding rehabilitation, doesn’t require a building to be traditionally significant, and is widely used across Chicago’s neighborhoods by smaller scale developers and building owners.
Buildings Lost or Facing Demolition
Worker’s Cottages and Italianate FlatsPerhaps the most painful post-fire cottage loss is 1878 N. Orchard. This block of N. Orchard is now mostly enormous single family homes, but originally had more modest construction. The larger-than-average lot sizes have been effective at luring buyers that value mass over style. [JM] 1878 N. Orchard made our retrospective for 2016 as endangered, and officially fell in February of 2017.
Night before its demolition—it's gone now.
We failed 1878 North Orchard Street, we failed Chicago, we failed history. pic.twitter.com/ttAWPYYK70
— Gabriel Xavier Michael (@_GXM) March 1, 2017
The fate of 334 W Schiller was all but sealed when it hit the market. A small Worker’s Cottage in the heart of Old Town for sale at well over $1.5 million likely wouldn’t remain standing after sale. [JM]
For years the building stock of West Loop has been erased as money floods into the neighborhood. In August, the six-flats above at 1000 W. Monroe fell to make way for million-dollar condos. [JM]
https://t.co/3pvkUYumkn worker's cottage, 334 West Schiller Street, built 1889. For sale: $1,600,000
— Gabriel Xavier Michael (@_GXM) June 9, 2015
As the race to taller and wider mega-mansions in Lincoln Park heats up, expensive historic homes are being marketed as potential side yards in double-lot sales, such as 2120 N. Seminary above. Fortunately it didn’t become a yard, unfortunately it became a pile of rubble to make way for something much larger. [JM]
One of the most potentially disturbing preservation losses this year is 2145 N. Fremont. A lovely example of 19th century multifamily architecture with exquisite and abundant stained glass received a demolition permit this year. The owners of the property live next door, but as of writing there are no construction permits are pending. Did they demolish it just to have a corner side yard? [JM]
Rivaling the loss of 2145 N. Fremont in Lincoln Park is 2136/2138 N. Dayton. In a particularly obscene case replacing a multifamily building with a single family building, a new double-lot single family home will take the place of this Italianate double house. [JM]
have little/no evidence, but have a sinking feeling 2145 N. Fremont will get demolished to give a terrible house a corner side yard pic.twitter.com/zb8dSImFmO
— John Morris (@influxed) October 29, 2017
— John Morris (@influxed) October 22, 2017
Reminiscent of the homes in Old Town built in the aftermath of the Great Fire, 1930 N. Sedgwick is of the same era and design. It was built around 1876. This two-unit building has served as a rental property for years, and went on the market with a description that all but said “the value is in the land.”
It won’t be replaced with a single-family home, but it is just one example of the post-fire cottages we’re rapidly losing. [JM]A pair of frame rowhouses with Italianate bracketed cornices, most likely dating to the late 1860s or early 1870s, received demolition permits in August. Sitting at 464-466 N. Morgan St., they were blocks from Google’s Chicago offices and the nearby Fulton Market redevelopment. [GXM] 2429 W. Augusta is emblematic of the westward movement of displacement and demolition of historic homes and flats.
Built in the late 1880s, the two-flat features a very high first floor and elaborate incised floral window hoods. It sat on the market for only a few days, before selling for nearly $70,000 above the asking price.Not far in away in Bucktown, a Worker’s Cottage lost out to speculative investment. Noah Properies and Sergio & Banks are two firms at the forefront of replacing vernacular historic architecture with garish new construction. [JM]
Listed at just under $650K a year ago, 1845 N. Leavitt has several sale records since then, most recently in August for $830K to an individual who leads a real estate investment firm. This demo is a sad case because it’s one of two 1890s identical twin Worker’s Cottages that stand side-by-side. [JM] Two neighboring residential buildings in eastern Logan Square were both added to and released from Demolition Delay this year, at 2521 and 2527 West Medill Avenue. This 1870s worker’s cottage at No. 2521 was released from Demolition Delay and issued a demolition permit in September. [GXM] After sitting vacant for a number of years, activity at 231 W. Scott resumed at the end of 2016 with a demolition permit application. Though the last owner appeared to begin renovation work, a foreclosure during the financial crisis curtailed those plans. A new three-flat will replace this one. [JM] An interesting study in the evolution of Chicago architectural styles is 2314 N. Leavitt. Built in the early 1890s just prior to the World’s Fair, this two-flat straddles the Italianate style with decorative brackets and panels but also features a square projecting bay, an element that would become more prevalent around the turn of the century.
— Elizabeth Blasius (@blaservations) August 16, 2017
Advertised as being ideal for SFH or as a duplexed rental on a wide lot, the house sold for $758K and a recent permit reveals that the existing building will get replaced with a new three-flat. [JM]Advertised as a “teardown opportunity,” 2219 N. Dayton fell victim to a new owner with plans for a single-family home.
26 N. Throop (above center) is part of semi-contiguous block of Italianate row homes in West Loop, and received a demolition permit in March. Soaring real estate prices have led to row homes getting ripped apart and replaced with new construction. [JM]
— Chicago Cityscape (@ChiBuildings) November 19, 2017
2017 saw another significant loss in the Old Town neighborhood with an entire corner, which hd been owned by the same family for three generations, demolished for brand new $2 million row homes. Two of the buildings torn down included an 1870s Italianate with its original cornice and window brackets as well as a storefront attached to the back of a three-flat. [RF]
Come on, a storefront attached to the back of a three-flat? Like, you know this kind of charm can never be replicated, right? Ugh. pic.twitter.com/Awvufqqfek
— … (@chi_geek) June 3, 2017
Italianate Commercial and Mixed-Use BuildingsTerra cotta ornament (above) on the south elevation of the J.L. Higgie Building under demolition at 1909 West Ogden Avenue, built late 1880s. [GXM] The neighboring Fantus Clinic building across Harrison Street is also being demolished, joining a wave of new development in the Illinois Medical District. [GXM] Most of the lost Italianate buildings are in the form of two-flats and cottages, but we lost a few mixed-used buildings as well. 1437 Grand Avenue is getting replaced by another mixed-use building. [JM] Catatrophe struck when in November multiple buildings on Milwaukee Avenue caught fire. Fortunately no one was injured during the event, but both buildings were torn down via an emergency order. [JM]
In Pilsen, dual landmark designations likely won’t save an endangered building on 18th Street. It is listed as contributing in the Pilsen Historic District on the National Register and is Orange-rated on the Chicago Historic Resources survey.
Looks like these 1870s Italianate storefronts with limestone window hoods are under emergency demolition after a bad fire last week, 695 N. Milwaukee on the left was torn down already (glad I remembered to take this photo last Saturday night) pic.twitter.com/EiG6Hq4fHs
— Gabriel Xavier Michael (@_GXM) November 14, 2017
Sadly, neither designation carries enough weight to prevent demolition.
Neoclassical and Victorian2943 W. Washington Boulevard (left) suffered a fire at the end of 2016, and was recently released from Demolition Delay and issued a demolition permit. It was built in 1903. 2949 (right) is currently for sale by owner at $850,000. [GXM] 1760 West Augusta Boulevard under demolition, replaced by a luxury residential development. While there is an adjacent yet scattered East Village Historic District, this building was not included. [GXM] Along with its neighbor at No. 2521, this Eastlake-style 2-flat frame building was released from Demolition Delay earlier this year and issued a demolition permit in September: 2527 West Medill Avenue, built 1880s [GXM] Harmony Grill, part of Schubas Tavern, came down earlier this year to make way for a modern expansion.
Built in the early 1890s, construction of 2430 W Moffat coincided with the arrival of the Metropolitan West Side Elevated Railroad a few blocks away. Today it’s the Western stop of the CTA Blue Line.
— Chicago Bars (@chicagobars) April 3, 2017
A new three-flat will replace this small but decorative Victorian cottage.
A sad addition to this list is 1944 N. Sedgwick, an exquisitely maintained Gingerbread Gothic in Lincoln Park built around 1876. Standing at three stories and 3,200 square feet, this home was listed on forsalebyowner.com at nearly $1.3 million with the following description:
This two unit structure with bargeboard and fancy doors came down earlier this year to make way for a new three-flat. The lot adjacent to the Damen Brown Line station saw a late 1880s Victorian come down to make way for a transit-oriented development.
Rare Single Family home in a fabulous neighborhood; close to the ZOO, Lincoln Park, Lake Michigan, public transportation and great Old Town and Lincoln Park restaurants. And did I mention parking? Two car detached garage. And how about this: We pay our entire mortgage with the vacation rental in the separate garden apartment. The basement is zoned for VRBO if interested in renting that out. But you don’t have to. Use it as a media or family room, an in-law suite or office/ studio. It’s completely renovated with a gleaming new kitchen, bedroom and bathroom.
Art Deco and ModernA rare case of a “modernistic” (Art Deco/Art Moderne) listing on the Chicago Historic Resources Survey, this interesting little home in Wicker Park received a 90-day delay via the Demolition Delay Ordinance. Built in the early 20th century, usages have changed over the years. What was likely an earlier commercial-style front was replaced with a curving wall with metalwork in the Art Deco style.
Despite its curvy facade with glass block windows, the building above at 1638 N. Sedgwick actually dates to the midcentury era. Designed by architect Edward Marks, the small home in Old Town became an object of tug of war. Though part of a historic district, its age precluded it from a contributing designation which would have saved it.
Say goodbye to this quirky old Wicker Park house. 4-unit condo building on the way, agent tells me. https://t.co/6BOfAXEoat
— Dennis Rodkin (@Dennis_Rodkin) November 9, 2017
After the permit was initially denied at the end of 2016, a demolition permit was eventually granted in August of this year. [JM]One of the less-loved examples of midcentury-modernism in the Loop, the General Growth Building will likely get replaced by a new 800-ft tower. A last-minute federal review of its historic status put a kink in plans, but it seems unlikely the review will be enough to stop advancement of the new tower.
SullivanesqueNot realizing the history of their new structure, the new occupants of 2434 W Montrose stripped the historic Sullivanesque ornament from the building and replaced it with wood timbers.
— Nick's Pizza & Pub (@Nickspizza) October 24, 2017
Two new four-story mixed use buildings are being developed by BlitzLake Partners and designed by Piekarz Associates. Though Preservation Chicago, Allan Mellis and community partners were unable to prevent the demolition of the Lincoln-Montana Building, we were able to ensure through a signed community development agreement that the building’s decorative ornamental “Sullivanesque” terra-cotta would be carefully removed and donated to the Illinois Railway Museum in Union, Illinois, where it will be incorporated into the façade of their new visitors center and part of its new $7.5 million, two-block Vintage Main Street exhibit.
— Preservation Chicago (@Pres_Chicago) July 24, 2017
Landmarks and Other Noteworthy LossesAs covered in February, the Bamboo Lounge, a very intact Schlitz tied house on the East Side, closed in late 2016 or early 2017, and its Schlitz stained glass window was removed. In late 2017, the building’s other doors and windows were also boarded up. Without landmark protection, its future remains murky. [EAR] The land at 56 W. Huron appears to have been residential before the Presbyterian board gave the Assyrian Presbyterian Church the building and land in 1927.
The congregation remained at 56 W. Huron until they relocated to a larger building in 1948, with the old church reverting to other uses not long after. [JM]
In 1960 a Tribune article (above) shows the space in use for artists and designers.
It was most recently in the news as the preferred salon of Michelle Obama:
The hair salon Michelle Obama frequented for more than 20 years before moving to Washington may soon be replaced with an 11-story condo building.
A development entity headed by Joseph Kiferbaum of Adama Associates in Deerfield last week filed an application for a zoning change for a project at 56 W. Huron, the site of Van Cleef Hair Studio. Michelle Obama had her hair done by its proprietor, Michael “Rahni” Flowers, from the time she was 18, in 1986, until after her husband was elected president.
–Dennis Rodkin, Crain’s Chicago Business
Noble Horse Theatre, the city’s last remaining riding hall and thought to be oldest in the country, finally came down in May. The final years were marked by struggle to stay in business, battles with the city, and a couple of arson fires. [JM] The castle-like structure dated in part to just after the Great Fire and most recently served as stables for downtown horse-drawn carriages. A relic of Fulton Market’s meatpacking legacy, these industrial brick buildings were recently occupied by Wichita Packing Company at 1315 and 1319 West Fulton Street, and were built in 1953 and 1894, respectively. The weathered “Boarding Stable” and pigs painted on the buildings gave a glimpse into the former life of this rapidly developing area. Demolition permits were issued for the buildings on 5/18/2017. [GXM] A demolition permit has been issued for the former Chicago Machinery Exchange, an orange-rated structure designed by D.H. Burnham & Company in 1910. The three-story white glazed brick building with orange-colored arched ornament and cornice was recently renovated and is in excellent condition. [RF]
1648 N. Winchester made news when it hit the market last year. A former trolley garage, heavily modified in the 1990s, asked $855K for a large residence near the Damen Blue line. In a slightly odd twist, it received a zoning change, presumably to build a larger single family home on the site.
1217 W. Washington Boulevard was released from Demolition Delay List yesterday. Happy Thanksgiving. pic.twitter.com/jweUnuFzQx
— Gabriel Xavier Michael (@_GXM) November 22, 2017
Just a few days after the new Washington/Wabash Loop ‘L’ station opened, one of the oldest stations in the Loop closed permanently.
Upzoned to allow a larger single family house? Near Damen Blue Line, former trolley garage at 1648 N. Winchester faces demolition pic.twitter.com/3adQoi72Mv
— Chicago Patterns (@chicagopatterns) December 17, 2017
December brought several emergency demolition orders of city-owned buildings in Englewood. The South Side Masonic Temple, crumbling for years and long a concern of preservationists, suffered a roof collapse that sealed its fate. Demolition began in December. [EAR] A striking terra cotta bank building on 63rd near Ashland also ran out of time. Used as a church for years, its facade fell into severe disrepair after work on the parapet wall was aborted. [EAR] Another piece of Chicago’s industrial past was lost four months ago when the factory for the Seng Company, a pioneer in furniture manufacturing that invented the sofa-sleeper and swivel chair, was torn down for a new retail complex from New City developer Structured Development and Big Deahl Productions. [RF] The 1910s Prairie-style building was an orange-rated property on the city’s Historic Resources Survey. The developer plans to demolish more industrial structures on or around Dayton Street in the near future. [RF] Another orange-rated structure from the Chicago Historic Resources Survey lost this year was 1443 North Wells, an Italianate commercial building with Eastlake detailing and distinct patterned brickwork. Instead of saving its facade, the property was torn down along with its neighbors, which included Bistrot Margot, for a brand-new six-story mixed-used development. [RF]
— Gabriel Xavier Michael (@_GXM) October 8, 2017
Endangered PlacesThe South Shore Nature Sanctuary may or may not be on borrowed time – it’s difficult to tell. Judging by comments that the public have given at numerous public meetings over the past year, it is valued and ought to be saved. Despite this, and in the face of lagging fundraising, Park District superintendent Mike Kelly remains stubbornly committed to the pricey project that would displace it. The final outcome is very much tied up in what is sure to be a long public debate about the South Lakefront Framework Plan and the shape of the Obama Presidential Center. [EAR]
A building that looks ordinary on the outside but houses a treasure inside, Woodruff Arcade entered endangered territory with plans unveiled earlier this year.
A seven-story development slated to replace Edgewater’s 1923 Woodruff Arcade at the southeast corner of Sheridan Road and Devon Avenue is apparently back with an updated design. The mixed-use project calls for 58 rental apartments above 9,000 square feet of ground floor commercial space and could be delivered by fall 2018, according to latest information commercial real estate brokerage firm Edgemark.
— Jay Koziarz, Curbed Chicago
The Edgewater Historical Society puts a fine point on its value and why it deserves landmark status:
The former Avondale Presbyterian Church at 3301 N. Albany is facing the prospect of being replaced by a new six-flat development.
The Woodruff Arcade is a hidden gem, but a gem nonetheless. It is a unique building type, the precursor of today’s indoor shopping mall, and it is the only one in Edgewater (we once had two). More importantly, it is the only one in all of Chicago. For that reason alone it should be preserved.
— Edgewater Historical Society
One of the very few extant Sheridan Road mansions became endangered when a developer went under contract to purchase the property at 5356 N. Sheridan.
Then and Now: former Avondale Presbyterian Church built in a Queen Anne/Shingle style with a fantastic gabled roofline, 3301 N. Albany Avenue, built 1891 (undated/uncredited postcard). Vacant building currently under threat of demolition for proposed 6-flat development. pic.twitter.com/ZYk1UMVrCk
— Gabriel Xavier Michael (@_GXM) December 12, 2017
The restaurant bears the familiar wood paneling and drop ceilings of a midcentury re-do, but it still retains some of the original parts, like the wood railing and newel posts. [JM]
The building, which has housed Wing Hoe Chinese restaurant since 1971, was turned into a commercial building in 1947. It originally housed the famous Joe Stein’s Romanian Steak House which began operation sometime in 1948-1950. After Joe died in 1969, Wing Hoe took over the space and has served the neighborhood for almost a half-century – which is an incredible feat.
It is most likely that the mansions updated role as a commercial property is the reason it has survived so long. But now that Edgewater is a hot real estate market again, developers can make a nice profit with the complex that has been proposed. A huge lot, easy demolition and low selling price can make a structure like the 5356 N. Sheridan mansion vulnerable to developments.
— EdgevilleBUZZ (@EdgevilleBUZZ) December 19, 2017
Saved from Likely DemolitionA narrow 1870s Italianate row house, wedged between two high rises in River North, held for years by an owner who refused pressure to sell, came under threat when he passed away. Fortunately, a preservation-minded buyer emerged and the house will be spared – and converted to offices. [EAR] 1639 North Park Avenue made our list of saves last year, though its future was still uncertain. Finality came in 2017 when the Landmarks Commission denied an economic hardship application filed as a workaround of the home’s contributing status to the district.
In an example of community coming together for effective historic preservation, a unique and important greystone two-flat narrowly avoided the wrecking ball this year. A developer purchased the property with the intent of tearing it down and building a new six flat in its place. At that stage, the only person that can stop the process it the local alderman, which very rarely happens. An outpouring of support for 1436 W. Berwyn was enough to save it, and the property now has a preservation-minded owner.
The representatives of the owner’s estate applied for a demolition permit in September, 2016. The Commission reviewed their request at their October 2016 meeting and preliminarily disapproved the application based on their determination that the home is contributing to the district. An informal conference was held in November. The applicant then requested an economic hardship hearing. They agreed to extend the deadlines for this hearing, which occurred in April and was continued to four additional dates, concluding in July of 2017. The Commission issued their denial of the economic hardship application in September, 2017.
–Planning, Design, and Historic Preservation Division, City of Chicago
This is a good example of what an organized community can accomplish. The Alderman held a meeting, hundreds showed up, he turned against the project, and eventually the developer decided to sell.
— Andy Marfia (@AndyMarfia) January 1, 2018
Overlooking Lincoln Park at Wrightwood stands a handsome row of townhomes credited to David Adler, best known as an architect of gracious suburban estates. The southernmost of these, in institutional use for many years, came under threat when it was sold to a developer. Quick-thinking preservationists and community activists got the entire row landmarked in the nick of time, and the house will be saved. Now begins a long restoration and renovation process. [EAR] The future of the Vautravers Building remained in doubt when plans for the Belmont Flyover were unveiled. Standing in the way of the new track, CTA listed this structure as “move or demolish” in the list of buildings that would need to go.
After an uncertain future, CTA now appears set to preserve it by relocating it. [JM]
A developer bought 4636 N. Paulina, a Victorian with original millwork and stained glass, that was originally built in 1888. Fortunately he worked with the Ravenswood Neighbors Association to answer questions from the community, who did not want him to demolish the property. He backed out of his plans and the old home is safe for now. [RF] Last year a late-1880s Italianate two-flat at 1328 Wicker Park Avenue (above) faced demolition as the long-vacant property experienced a change in ownership. What saved the building is its status as a contributing building in the Wicker Park District:
Located in East Lakeview, this rare, historic mansion was put on the city’s Demolition Delay Hold list earlier this year. Designed in 1905 by prominent architect Frederick W. Perkins for Dr. Daniel O. Hill, the 11,000 square foot home was most recently occupied by a Serbian cultural organization, who sought a demolition permit when no buyers appeared. Luckily, alderman Tom Tunney stepped in and the Chicago Commission of Landmarks granted protected status to the home in August. [RF] Another bright spot of 2017 for historic preservation is the Schlitz Tied House at 69th and Morgan in Englewood.
In October of 2016 a demolition application was received for this building. It had been vacant for several years and the demolition was requested by the estate of the deceased owner. In November the Commission on Chicago landmarks determined that the building is a contributing structure to the Wicker Park District and its demolition would constitute an adverse effect. A preliminary decision disapproving the demolition application was issued. In March the owner chose to withdraw the demolition application and put the property back on the market. In April the Historic Preservation Division received a permit application for substantial repairs and a rear addition.
–Planning, Design, and Historic Preservation Division, City of Chicago
In March, an out-of-state property owner decided the easiest way to remediate building violations was a demolition permit. The Planning, Design, and Historic Preservation Division stepped into action and explained landmark status to the owner, and suggested transfer to a local non-profit. The property owner agreed to defer the initial demolition request and talks are ongoing.
One important lesson of 2017 is the power of historic landmarks and landmark districts. It’s a great sign that preservation-minded buyers are saving numerous homes on the market listed as “teardown opportunities.” But to make for an even better landscape for historic building stock, we need more individual landmarks and landmark districts.
As we’ve seen in some of the buildings spared demolition in 2017, a building’s landmark status with the city can make all the difference.
Preservation Chicago is on the case, but needs your help to make it happen. [JM]
How about a Chicago Blues Historic District! https://t.co/IbdWOjsJ9o
— Preservation Chicago (@Pres_Chicago) June 8, 2017
Any movement towards a Chicago Public Sculpture Landmark District to protect our public art? https://t.co/YdTXAbZHYz
— Preservation Chicago (@Pres_Chicago) November 30, 2017
Pilsen needs a Historic Landmark District to preserve neighborhood architecture, & as a planning tool for new construction & gentrification. https://t.co/AVxc88Hq9t
— Preservation Chicago (@Pres_Chicago) August 8, 2017
Previous Yearly Retrospectives
Our 2017 Articles on Preservation
- Why save the South Shore Nature Sanctuary?
- 63rd Street Heyday’s Remnants at Risk as Woodlawn Development Takes Off
- Dual Landmark Status Not Enough to Save Building in Pilsen
- The Value is in the Land: Lincoln Park Italianate Edition
- The Emergence, Demolition, and Preservation of Italianate Cottages and Flats
- The Value is in the Land: 1000 W. Monroe
- Beautiful 19th Century Homes on Borrowed Time
- Preservation Chicago’s 2017 “Chicago 7” Most Endangered List
- The Bamboo Lounge