Landmarks commission has a chance to help save historic West Side mansion

The landmarks commission’s vote could set the stage for preserving a handsome late 19th Century building in a neighborhood that has lost too many vintage structures over the past 50 years.

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The Wolfson Building at 2678 W. Washington Blvd in East Garfield Park, Monday, July 31, 2023. | Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

The Wolfson Building at 2678 W. Washington Blvd in East Garfield Park.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

The city’s Commission on Chicago Landmarks is taking a positive step this week in weighing whether to give a preliminary designation to a 130-year-old former East Garfield Park mansion that’s under threat of demolition.

The commission is scheduled to decide Thursday regarding the vacant building at 2678 W. Washington Blvd.

After the vote, the panel will also vote on whether to approve a demolition filed for the building in May on behalf of its owner, Landmark Living 2678.

Why demolish the building? Neither Landmark Living nor its owner, Guillermo Meza Ortega, could be reached for comment.

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But here’s hoping the commission grants a preliminary designation that would set the stage for preserving and reusing a handsome late 19th Century building in a neighborhood that has seen too many of its vintage structures wrecked and hauled away over the last 50 years.

The turreted, three-story brick and limestone home was built in 1892 for tire manufacturer Fred W. Morgan, according to Preservation Chicago, an organization which seeks to save the structure.

The building spent much of the 20th century as a home for children and unwed mothers. More recently, the structure housed social service organizations.

The property also features a converted coach house and ornate wrought iron fencing.

In addition to the home’s architecture, Preservation Chicago Executive Director Ward Miller said the building should be granted preliminary landmark status for its history of providing “essential health care services to women, and especially women of color, on Chicago’s West Side, in an era when such medical services were so limited and considered out of reach to many.”

The city’s 20-year-old demolition delay ordinance — the creation of which was championed by preservation groups — deserves a hat-tip for helping bring attention to the building’s planned demolition.

The law puts an automatic 90-day delay on any demolition permit application filed for a building that is rated orange or red on the city’s Chicago Historic Resources Survey, allowing the Department of Planning’s landmarks staff and the commission to figure out if a building is worthy of preliminary landmark status.

The East Garfield Park building is among more than 9,000 properties listed as orange — a rating second only to red — indicating it has “some architectural feature or historical association … potentially significant in the context of the surrounding community.”

And given the West Side has fewer individually landmarked buildings than any other area of the city, we’re glad to see the demo delay ordinance come into play to potentially save an historic East Garfield Park building.

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