Century and Consumers Buildings now on national list of ‘endangered historic places’

The designation by the National Trust for Historic Preservation is more reason for the feds to reconsider their plan to wreck the historic Loop skyscrapers.

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The National Trust for Historic Preservation named the Century and Consumers Buildings on South State Street to this year’s most endangered places list.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation named the Century and Consumers Buildings on South State Street to this year’s most endangered places list.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

The battle to save downtown’s vacant Century and Consumer Buildings from the federal wrecking ball received some welcomed national attention Tuesday, when the influential nonprofit National Trust for Historic Preservation named the century-old skyscrapers to its yearly America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list.

It couldn’t have come at a better time. The preservation group Landmarks Illinois named the buildings to its own most endangered list last week.

And city landmarks officials last month voted unanimously to grant a preliminary designation to the federally-owned buildings, located on the southwest corner of Adams and State streets.

“As two iconic early skyscrapers along Chicago’s historic State Street, the Century and Consumers Buildings contribute to the architectural significance of the area known as ‘the Loop,’ ” the National Trust said in a statement.

Editorial

Editorial

The buildings are on the chopping block because judges in the Dirksen Federal Building — plus the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service and other agencies — believe the structures would be a security threat to the nearby courthouse if redeveloped and reoccupied as once planned.

It’s an argument this editorial board has questioned since 2019. If the skyscrapers were wrecked, the Dirksen and the federal center still sit in the middle of downtown, where it faces other buildings and is bisected by busy Dearborn Street.

Reconsider wrongheaded demolition plan

Demolition would also be a detriment to State Street, and senselessly claim a pair of important early skyscrapers. The Consumers, built in 1913, was designed by Jenney, Mundie & Jensen. Holabird & Roche designed the Century, which was completed in 1915.

The only thing halting demolition are ongoing hearings held under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act that requires the feds to first “identify and assess the effects [demolition] may have on historic buildings ... [and] consider public views and concerns about historic preservation.”

The federal General Services Administration — which owns the site — still has the power to overrule the city and the National Trust listing and wreck the buildings anyway.

But with all this activity, the feds must reconsider its wrongheaded plan to wreck the Century and Consumers.

That is, if there’s any justice at all.

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