Conservationists hopeful historic limestone wall at Promontory Point will be preserved

The Promontory Point Conservancy announced last week that U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly earmarked $550,000 of federal funding to authorize a third-party engineering study of the Point’s limestone revetment.

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Residents are trying to preserve the limestone seawall and prevent the a concrete seawall from taking its place.

Residents are trying to preserve the limestone seawall and prevent the construction of a concrete seawall in its place.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Ruth Knack’s memories of Promontory Point begin in the early 1940s.

“My parents would spend a lot of time at the Lake and particularly at the Point because it reminded them of the town they were from in Germany and the Baltic Sea,” Knack said.

Years later, Knack would walk along the limestone rocks with her friends and, even later, as a student at the University of Chicago. She still walks along the limestone today.

In March, the Point was named to Preservation Chicago’s “most endangered” list. The group also said the city and Chicago Park District planned to replace the limestone with concrete, which conservationists vehemently oppose.

Knack was among the interested residents on hand Thursday, as the Promontory Point Conservancy announced U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill., had earmarked $550,000 in federal funding to authorize a “much delayed and much needed” third-party engineering study of the limestone at the Point.

Promontory Point, an artificially created peninsula located between 54th and 56th Streets along the city’s lakefront, made the Preservation Chicago’s annual ‘Chicago 7 Most Endangered.’

Promontory Point, an artificially created peninsula located between 54th and 56th Streets along the city’s lakefront, made the Preservation Chicago’s annual ‘Chicago 7 Most Endangered.’

Eric Allix Rogers for Preservation Chicago

“For 22 years, the community has been fighting to protect and preserve the historic limestone revetment and its enjoyment of Promontory Point,” said Jack Spicer of The Conservancy. “Our local elected representatives listened and have answered our call.”

The fight for the funds began with the 2004 version of the Water Resource Development Act, which authorizes various Army Corps of Engineers projects. Two Illinois members of Congress, then-Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and then-Sen. Barack Obama, got Promontory Point added to the legislation.

But while that authorized the study, it did not appropriate any funding for it.

Now, with Kelly’s help, the money could be on the way. The city and park district have said they will support Kelly’s latest request, leaving activists hopeful the argument over limestone v. concrete finally can be resolved.

“This is miraculously good news,” Spicer said.

The limestone seawall at Promontory Point, Thursday, May 26, 2022.

A study of the limestone revetment at Promontory Point could be funded next year. Preservationists want to save the limestone and oppose a plan to replace it with a concrete seawall.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

The funding would be disbursed to the park district in March 2023. The U.S. Army Corps then would select an independent marine engineer to conduct the study of the revetment’s preservation.

“Chicago is a gem on the Great Lakes,” said Debra Hammond of The Conservancy. “This moment opens the potential for the city, the Chicago Park District and the community to make something harmoniously, beautifully world class at Promontory Point.”

Cheyanne M. Daniels wrote this story for the Chicago Sun-Times via Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster the paper’s coverage of communities on the South and West sides.

Promontory Point is at 5500 S. DuSable Lake Shore Drive.

Promontory Point is at 5500 S. DuSable Lake Shore Drive. The top of the park’s fieldhouse can be seen above the trees behind the limestone revetment that preservationists are trying to save.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

The limestone revetment at Promontory Point in Burnham Park is decaying and needs protection, according to Preservation Chicago, which put the site on its “most endangered” list.

The limestone revetment at Promontory Point in Burnham Park, shown in 2002, has continued to decay but needs protection, not replacement, according to Preservation Chicago.

Sun-Times file

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