The Washington Park National Bank in Woodlawn was added to this year’s list of “most endangered historic places” in the state by Landmarks Illinois.
Built in 1924, the five-story limestone building towers over the intersection at 63rd Street and Cottage Grove Avenue. The Cook County Land Bank Authority took over the building in January 2018. It had been owned by the Metropolitan Apostolic Church, headed by the Rev. Leon Finney Jr., since 2001.
In March, the Land Bank announced it planned to sell the building to developers Leon Walker and Lamell McMorris. In their proposal for the site, Walker and McMorris called for replacing the building with a three-story commercial development even though a structural assessment determined the building was “salvageable and can be repaired to restore its full structural integrity.”
In its announcement, Landmarks Illinois said the Washington Park National Bank merits restoration for its significance to the history of Woodlawn.
“This nearly 100-year-old neoclassical building was once the heart of a thriving retail area in Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood and remains an important anchor to the community,” the group said.
The planned demolition irked some area residents, including Ald.-elect Jeanette Taylor (20th), who told the Chicago Sun-Times it was “unfair that communities on the South Side do not get to preserve historic buildings like they do on the North Side.”
Taylor said Wednesday she plans to meet with Rob Rose, director of the Land Bank, to express “the concerns of the community.”
Along with the Washington Park National Bank, five sites highlighted this year by Landmarks Illinois are in Cook County: Booth Cottage, Hoover Estate, Sheffield National Register Historic District, Hill Motor Sales Building, and the James R. Thompson Center.
There are seven other sites on the list, including the Chancery and Piety Hill Properties in Rockford, St. Mary’s School in Galena, and the Rock Island County Courthouse.
MORE ABOUT THE WASHINGTON PARK NATIONAL BANK BUILDING
Carlos Ballesteros is a corps member in Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of issues affecting Chicago’s South and West sides.