Preservation Chicago was created to raise awareness of what's at stake and to help take action in preserving the irreplaceable historic architecture that gives Chicago its distinctive identity and world-wide appeal.
Preservation Chicago is a not-for-profit volunteer organization. Whether you volunteer on a committee, make a donation, or become a member, please get involved. The fight seems never-ending and is never easy. But the successes are real and mounting. And that's a contribution to the future that makes every minute spent in the fight, worth it beyond words.
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The properties highlighted today include:
Harper Theater: Date: 1913
Harper Ave., 53th Street, Randolph St. to 12th St.
Architect: Horatio Wilson
The Harper Theater Buildings in Hyde Park are an important example ofChicago's traditional mixed-use commercial buildings. The complex is alsoone of three historic corner buildings still standing at Hyde Park's importantcommercial intersection of 53rd Street and Harper Avenue. This intersection isone of the last scraps of the neighborhood's once extensive commercial districtthat survive. Most of Hyde Park's historic commercial buildings were demolished as part of Hyde Park's infamous UrbanRenewal project of the 1950's. The University of Chicago now owns the Harper Theater Buildings and has recentlyaborted its earlier redevelopment plan that would have adaptively reused the historic buildings. The buildings now standempty and unprotected.
The Harper Theater Buildings have been owned by the University of Chicago since 2002. After purchase, the Universityconducted a lengthy and transparent "Request For Proposal" process with extensive community participation. In 2006the U of C contracted with Baum Realty and Brinshore Development to redevelop the site. Rather than demolishing thebuildings, Baum and Brinshore created a sophisticated preservation plan that would have adaptively reused the HarperTheater buildings as a mixed-use retail/restaurant/office complex. This approach would have taken advantage offederal historic tax credits and local preservation assistance programs to help finance the project. In May of 2008, theU of C abruptly terminated the contract with the developers. The commercial and theater buildings now stand vacant andsurrounded by scaffolding. The U of C owns adjoining properties which could result in a large-scale demolition to createa single redevelopment site located in the 53rd Street Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District. Representatives of the
The Harper TheaterHarper Avenue and 53th StreetArchitect: Horatio WilsonDate: 1913
Photo: David Schalliol
Citizens advocating for the preservation of Chicago's historic architecture www.preservationchicago.orgUniversity recently stated publicly that "the Harper Theater buildings probably wouldn't make it through the winter."This ambiguous and ominous statement stands in stark contrast to the University's earlier approach to the buildingsand to the community.
The Harper Theater buildings form a mixeduse corner commercial development with retail storefronts on the first floor and office spaces on the second floor of the southfacing 53rd Street wing, and a 3-story theater building facing east on Harper Avenue. They were designed by Horatio Wilson (1857-1917) one of Chicago's most popular and prolific architects who designed houses, factories, banks and apartment buildings -- as well as theaters -- throughout Chicago. The style is "prairie school / arts and crafts" with high-quality brick work and white terra cotta trim by Midland Terra Cotta Company. The theater portion was built as a 1,200-seat Vaudeville house and was converted to a movie theater in 1935. Its original and very small entrance was on 53rd Street with an elaborate terra cotta exit on Harper Avenue. As part of the 1930's conversion to a movie house and due to new fire regulations, the original entrance on 53rd Street was reconfigured as a small barber shop and the original exit on Harper was remodeled as a large open entrance with ticket window and lobby. The elaborate Midland terra cotta work of the original exit was replaced by blue and gold Art Deco terra cotta panels by Northwest Terra Cotta Company.
The Harper Theater buildings are included in the Hyde Park-Kenwood Historic District, which is listed in the NationalRegister of Historic Places. The theater portion of the complex is rated "ORANGE" in the Chicago Historic ResourcesSurvey. In September of 2008 the buildings were placed on Landmarks Illinois' 2008 "Chicagoland Watch List" of themost significant buildings in the Chicago area that are in danger of demolition. The Hyde Park Historical Society hasformally requested that the Commission on Chicago Landmarks designate the Harper Theater Buildingsan official Chicago Landmark.
Recommendation:Preservation Chicago recommends that the University of Chicago return to its own, earlier, adaptive reuse plan forthe Harper Theater Buildings. This thoughtful, sophisticated approach would preserve and renew an historic buildingthat has been a visible feature of the community's commercial and cultural life for almost one hundred years.Demolition of historic buildings is not a sustainable development strategy.
Lathrop Homes: Date: 1938
Address: Clybourn Ave & Diversey Pkwy.
Architects: Robert S. De Golyer, Hugh M.G. Garden, Jens Jensen (landscaping), Tallmadge & Watson
Address: Clybourn Avenue & Diversey Parkwayeast of the Chicago RiverDate: Completed in 1938Architects: Robert S. De Golyer, Hugh M.G. Garden,Jens Jensen (landscaping), ThomasTallmadge, Vernon Watson, E.E. Roberts,Charles White and Hubert BurnhamStyle: Prairie, Arts and CraftsCHRS
Rating: YellowNationalRegister: NoQuick facts: Built by the Housing Division of the Public Works Administration (est. 1933) Managed by the Chicago Housing Authority (est. 1937) One of the first three federally funded public housing projects in Chicago(w/ Jane Addams and Trumbull) 925 units 35.3 acres (approximately 3 1/2 square city blocks) 3-& 4-story apt buildings and 2-story row housesOverview:
Julia Lathrop Homes is the best public housing development Chicago ever built, representing a raciallymixed, remarkably stable community for generations of Chicagoans. Beautifully sited along the ChicagoRiver with a magnificent and mature landscape, the buildings are low-rise and gently ornamented, creatingan intimate, humane atmosphere. The development is small scale, low-density and well integrated withthe surrounding neighborhood.The design owes much to the earlier 19th century industrial towns (Saltaire, New Lanark, Pullman) as well asto the Garden City tradition started by Ebenezer Howard in England -- naturalistic setting, brick construction,low-rise buildings, curving walks and streets, informal siting of buildings, ample open/green space,and simple ornamentation. The best way to know the Lathrop Homes is to go there and walk through thecommunity. You will experience a neighborhood with the sense of individual, personal dwellings.
History:During the depths of the Great Depression, the Federal government determined to create much-neededpublic housing, and at the same time provide jobs for unemployed architects and building trades workers.To find a solution to the perpetual problem of creating livable public housing, the government assembled a"Dream Team" of the best-and-brightest architects from Chicago. Among the "all-stars" were:(Continues, next page)©2007 Preservation Chicago2 0 0 7
Courtesy of Chicago Housing AuthorityCitizens advocating for the preservation of Chicago's historic architecture(773) 489.0300 www.preservationchicago.orgROBERT S. DE GOLYER: A designer of posh Lake ShoreDrive high rises, he was the team leader, providing a classicalelegance. The fine brickwork, stone rooftop finials and archedarcades linking the buildings echo his work for the wealthy.HUGH M.G. GARDEN: One of the respected formerpractitioners of the old "Chicago School" imparting a meld ofmodernism and livable traditionalism.JENS JENSEN: The legendarily ornery and outspokenlandscape designer demonstrating his ideals of the nativelandscape and its populist, life-enhancing qualities for all.Many of Jensen's original trees still remain in place, and havenow aged into the sheltering maturity he envisioned. Thetownhouses included small kitchen gardens in which residentsraised fresh vegetables right outside their doors.
THOMAS TALLMADGE, VERNON WATSON, E.E. ROBERTS, CHARLES WHITE andHUBERT BURNHAM (Daniel Burham's son).Critical Part of the City's Heritage:Julia Lathrop Homes is one of the most important markers in the long search for livable public housing in thecity. Even if it were being built today it would be an excellent example of architecture, planning and landscapedesign working together to create a pleasant, humane environment for the residents and surrounding community.Lathrop Homes is an historic site that provides continuing lessons on how housing, both public and private,should be designed in the future.
Threat:In July of 2006, the Chicago Housing Authority announced its intention to demolish Lathrop Homes andreplace it with an apartment-condominium-townhome development -- this in a part of the city alreadygasping to maintain its visual, social and historical diversity under a wave of big-box and gated-communitydevelopments.Recommendation:Lathrop Homes is a viable, ethnically diverse urban community with structurally sound buildings. We urge thatboth the community and the buildings be preserved. A group of Lathrop residents and neighbors, known asthe Lathrop Leadership Team, has formulated a proposal called "Our Vision for the Lathrop Homes." The plancalls on the CHA to revitalize Lathrop as a low- and moderate-income community, minimizing the displacement ofthe current residents. The Leadership Team has been assisted by the Logan Square Neighborhood Associationand the Team's vision enjoys growing support from elected officials, including Alderman Manny Flores (1st).
Pilgrim Baptist: Date: 1890
Address: 33rd St./Indiana Ave.
Architect: Adler and Sullivan
Pilgrim Baptist ChurchAddress: 3301 South Indiana AvenueDate: 1890Architects: Adler and SullivanStyle: Sullivanesque, influenced byRichardsonian RomanesqueRevivalCHRS
Rating: RedLandmarked: 1981NationalRegister: Not Listed
Overview:When a city loses a landmarked structure designed by two of the world's most revered and influential architects,it's a heartbreak. But when that structure also happens to have housed events so historical, they havechanged the face of an entire cultural landscape, it is a tragedy. Such was the case on January 6, 2006, whenfire gutted the 115-year-old Pilgrim Baptist Church in Chicago's storied Bronzeville neighborhood. Sincethen, the future of the Church has been widely debated. Could it be restored? And what about the cost ofdoing so a sum that would surely be prohibitive.
History:Originally designed as a synagogue by Louis H. Sullivan and partner Dankmar Adler, the building had abrawny, citadel demeanor that belied the splendor it housed within -- a spacious sanctuary exemplifyingthe Sullivan/Adler trademarks, from the horseshoe-shaped oak balcony to the intricately ornamented terracottapanels to the soaring, half-moon ceiling that was an acoustical masterpiece. In 1922, the synagoguebecame the Pilgrim Baptist Church, serving as a welcoming beacon to African-Americans during the GreatMigration. Bronzeville began to flourish as a business, cultural and social center for middle-class Blacks, andit was during this time, in this Church, that jazz and blues artist Thomas A. Dorsey gave rise to a new genreof music: Gospel was born.
In the '50's and '60's the neighborhood began to decline and congregation membership dwindled. TheChurch started showing signs of disrepair, triggering its designation as a historic Chicago landmark in 1981.But by 2002, the Bronzeville pendulum was back on the upswing with new construction and the renovatingof the grand homes of the Gilded Age. Restoration started on the Church as well. And then, as workersused blowtorches to fix the building's roof, the fire broke out, leaving all in ruins except for portions of thecharred limestone façade. Up in smoke went not only a cornerstone of African-American history, but thedreams of the surrounding community, which viewed the Church as the centerpiece of the neighborhood'slong-awaited rebirth.(Continues, next page)©2007 Preservation Chicago2 0 0 7©2006 Photo by Sandy Gartler
Citizens advocating for the preservation of Chicago's historic architecture(773) 489.0300 www.preservationchicago.org
Threat:Many have weighed in on the Church's destiny Church officials, politicians, architects, preservationists. Somehad thought it unsalvageable. But in February of 2006, a study by structural engineers of Wiss, Janney, ElstnerAssoc., Inc. had shown that significant portions of Pilgrim Baptist's exterior walls appear to remain structurallysound, leading to much optimism that the Church could be restored. A local company has been hired to startthe restoration, with scaffolding already being erected. But at this point, one year later after the fire, plans tomove forward are going painfully slow due to lack of monies. Church officials and Alderman Dorothy Tillman(3rd Ward) are continuing to press for funding which had been promised by various foundations at the time ofthe fire, but has yet to materialize.
Recommendation:Preservation Chicago is among the optimistic. In a statement to the Press and to a general gathering thatincluded Church and City officials, preservationists and builders, Preservation Chicago has declared, "We encouragethe preservation of the exterior walls and their incorporation in any future structure." We are also onrecord (Chicago Tribune, 2/9/06) for urging the City to monitor repairs on historic buildings more closely so thatfires of this nature do not occur in the future.
Rosenwald Apartments: Date: 1929
Address: 4618-4646 S. Michigan Boulevard
Architect: Ernest Grunsfeld, Jr.
Rosenwald(Michigan Boulevard Garden)ApartmentsAddress: 4618 - 4646 South Michigan BoulevardDate: 1929Architect: Ernest Grunsfeld, Jr.Style: ModerneCHRS
Rating: OrangeNationalRegister: Yes
Overview:In 1929, the Michigan Boulevard Garden Apartments were constructed to provide working class African-Americans with quality affordable housing. For several decades, this complex was a desirable place to liveand raise a family. It was well managed and profitable for the owners. After several ownership changes, occasionsof mismanagement, and years of neglected maintenance, the complex currently lies vacant. No childrenplay in the courtyard. No businesses occupy the busy 47th Street storefronts.While developers had hoped to revitalize the building with financial assistance from the City of Chicago, theseplans are 'on hold' and the complex continues to decay. If maintenance and rehabilitation is not providedsoon, the complex will be damaged beyond repair. Prompt action is essential to return this significant place inChicago's history to its former stature.
History:Mr. Julius Rosenwald, president of Sears, Roebuck & Company developed the Michigan Boulevard GardenApartments with the goal of providing decent affordable housing to working class black families who lived inthe Washington Park and Grand Boulevard neighborhoods. His efforts were in response to the Great Migrationof the 1920s which brought nearly 200,000 African-Americans to Chicago seeking work and a better lifefor their families. While jobs were available in several growing post WWI industries, quality housing for theworking class was in short supply. Rosenwald employed the services of his nephew, Ernest Grunsfeld, Jr.to design the enormous five-story building. Grunsfeld gained notoriety as designer of the Adler Planetariumon Chicago's lakefront. He also designed the landmarked Jewish People's Institute and the historic WhitehallHotel. The all-masonry apartment building features an articulated design to maximize windows arrangedaround a 2-acre inner landscaped courtyard.(Continues, next page)2 0 0 7.©2007 Photo by William NeuendorfCitizens advocating for the preservation of Chicago's historic architecture
©2007 Preservation ChicagoCourtesy of Mort Kaplan Public RelationsThe Architectural Record, March 1929(773) 489.0300 www.preservationchicago.org
PRESERVATION CHICAGO Chicago's Seven Most Threatened BuildingsROSENWALD (MICHIGAN BOULEVARD GARDEN) APARTMENTS (Continued from previous page)2 0 0 7Citizens advocating for the preservation of Chicago's historic architecture©2007 Preservation Chicago
Eight individual entrances to the building minimized long interior corridors and allowed for a closer bond amongneighbors. The exterior and courtyard façades are designed in the Moderne style. They feature sandy brownbrick accented by horizontal bands of red brick. The entrances are marked by subtle bands of red sandstonethat create bold doorways. For several decades, the building was a respected place to live for thousands ofBronzeville families. Mr. Robert Taylor, the first African-American chairman of the CHA, was a meticulous anddemanding manager for numerous years, and other significant Chicagoans lived in the Michigan BoulevardGarden Apartments, including poet Gwendolyn Brooks, singer Nat King Cole, boxing great Joe Louis, and musicianQuincy Jones.
Threat:While the complex was a desirable place to live for thirty years, it currently stands vacant and appearsabandoned. In the recent years, developers have proposed to rehabilitate the building by combining theoriginal 421 apartments into 320 condominiums and upgrading the first floor commercial space for newbusinesses. Despite the National Register of Historic Places designation in 1981, this facility is not protectedas a local landmark and the ongoing years of disrepair and neglect are taking their toll on this significantbuilding. Today, nearly every window is broken, allowing water to decay the interior. It is in dire needof immediate stabilization and long-term rehabilitation.
Recommendations:The revival of this significant mixed-use housing complex faces serious financial challenges. The publicsectorappears willing to provide some degree of financial assistance to bring a bright future back to thiscomplex.
1. Encourage Alderman Dorothy Tillman (3rd) and other local political and community leaders tosupport efforts to complete the rehabilitation of this complex.
2. Encourage the development team to actively seek new financial and professional partners who arecapable of completing this project.
3. Encourage the Chicago Department of Planning to pledge financial support of the project throughthe use of TIF funds, New Market Tax Credits, HOPE VI, or other means.
4. Seek to rehabilitate the complex as part of Chicago's bid for the 2016 Olympics. The building couldhouse visiting athletes or media groups and then be sold or rented as permanent housing.
5. Investigate the feasibility of re-using the building to include a number of different but compatiblehousing types. Possibilities include: cooperative housing (co-housing), youth hostel, studenthousing, senior housing, or artist live/work space.
6. Seek commercial partners to occupy the first floor space to provide job-training or goods andservices to local community residents.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun