Preservation Chicago issues 2023 ‘most endangered’ list

The properties range from early State Street skyscrapers to less-prominent commercial and industrial buildings in the neighborhoods.

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The Consumers Building, 220 S State St., (left), and the Century Building (right), 202 S. State St., would be demolished by the federal government as part of a security plan for the neighboring Dirksen Federal Building.

The Consumers Building, 220 S State St., (left), and the Century Building (right), 202 S. State St., would be demolished by the federal government as part of a security plan for the neighboring Dirksen Federal Building.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times file

A preservation group’s annual list of “most endangered” sites ranges from two early skyscrapers on State Street to reminders of Chicago’s industrial past.

The annual list from Preservation Chicago leads off with the Century Building at 202 S. State and the Consumers Building at 220 S. State, both dating from the early 20th century. The group has waged a public campaign to persuade the buildings’ owner, the federal government, to not tear them down.

The list goes on to include less-prominent buildings, including some many Chicagoans would overlook and might not think merit saving. The list includes the empty Continental Can Co. building at 3815 S. Ashland Ave. and the vacant and defaced Damen Silos at 2860 S. Damen Ave.

Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago, said the sites represent links to Chicago’s industrial past.

“This is a list that appeals to a broader audience,” Miller said. He said it challenges Chicagoans to look beyond personal tastes and consider the design and historical significance of the properties.

The group’s new rescue priorities were issued Wednesday during an event at the Chicago Architecture Center. Miller said it is the 20th year the group has issued a “most endangered list” in hopes of generating public support for preservation.

Miller said the group typically narrows each list from 70 to 90 suggestions submitted by the public, staff and board members.

The Century and Consumers buildings have made the list in three prior years. The federal government has appropriated $52 million to raze them, calling them a security risk for the abutting Dirksen Federal Building.

But the buildings are listed with the National Trust of Historic Places, so the government is holding hearings about possible alternatives to taking them down. Miller has argued that organizations could use the buildings as a repository for archives. Such use would enhance security for the federal complex in Chicago while razing the buildings worsens it, Miller has argued.

The Century Building opened in 1915 and was designed by Holabird & Roche. The Consumers Building opened in 1913 and was the work of Jenney, Mundie & Jensen.

The other buildings on the group’s 2023 list:

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A terra cotta building at 3145 W. 63rd St.

Max Chavez/Preservation Chicago

Terra cotta buildings throughout Chicago

Designed by various architects between the 1890s and 1940s, they range from notable skyscrapers to small neighborhood buildings. Many are deteriorating or could fall victim to development pressures. Terra cotta cladding became popular after the Chicago Fire of 1871 as cheap fireproof material and could be molded for ornamentation. Many buildings occupy prominent corners on commercial streets.

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The Jeffery Theater Building and Spencer Arms Hotel at 71st Street and Jeffery Boulevard.

Ward Miller/Preservation Chicago

Jeffery Theater Building and Spencer Arms Hotel

7054 S. Jeffery Blvd. and 952 E. 71st St.

Designed by William P. Doerr in 1924, they anchored a commercial district, but the theater closed in 1976 and its auditorium was demolished. The façade and lobby survive. The buildings occupy about 25% of a potential development site and could be incorporated into a new entertainment district.

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The Warehouse at 206 S. Jefferson St.

Serhii Chrucky/Preservation Chicago

The Warehouse

206 S. Jefferson St.

The building was designed by Vernon W. Behel in 1906 and 1917. Nightlife entrepreneur Robert Williams bought it in 1975 and, with disk jockey Frankie Knuckles, turned it into a center for a new genre called “house music” that spread around the globe. The club was especially popular with LGBTQ African Americans.

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Taft Hall at the University of Illinois Chicago.

Max Chavez/Preservation Chicago

Taft Hall at the University of Illinois Chicago

826 S. Halsted St.

The 1965 building is a remnant of Walter Netsch’s original design for the campus. It’s an example of Brutalist architecture that emphasizes basic building materials over decoration. The university has been recladding similar buildings in glass.

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The Werner Brothers Storage Building at 7613 N. Paulina St.

Ward Miller/Preservation Chicago

Werner Brothers Storage Building

7613 N. Paulina St.

The building, designed in 1921 by George S. Kingsley, was built when storage companies sought to create distinctive architecture and has intricate terra cotta treatment. Plans have been floated to replace it in Rogers Park with a transit-oriented development, but federal tax credits could be used for its preservation for affordable housing.

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The Continental Can Co. Building at 3815 S. Ashland Ave.

Serhii Chrucky/Preservation Chicago

Continental Can Co.

3815 S. Ashland Ave.

The building, designed in 1920 by Samuel Scott Joy, has an eye-catching tower and is a visual anchor of the Central Manufacturing District. Key elements of the building could be part of an adaptive reuse. Many of the district’s historic buildings have been lost.

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The Damen Silos at 2860 S. Damen Ave.

Sun-Times files

Damen Silos

2860 S. Damen Ave.

The grain silos are a monumental landmark for Chicago’s connections to agricultural markets. Civil engineer John Metcalf designed the silos which were erected in 1906. The state has sold them and its surrounding 23 acres to Michael Tadin Jr. and family. Tadin owns MAT Asphalt, the target of complaints about pollution in McKinley Park. He plans to demolish the silos as a safety hazard.

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The Fisk Power Station at 1111 W. Cermak Road.

Serhii Chrucky/Preservation Chicago

Fisk Power Station

1111 W. Cermak Road

Historic for its advances in steam engine turbines, the now-closed site generated electricity with output and efficiency to power the city’s growth. Shepley, Ruan and Coolidge designed the station in 1903. It’s part of a 50-acre potential development site.

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