‘7 Most Endangered’ historic places include Obama library site
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Jackson Park, Chicago Park District home of the future Barack Obama Presidential Library.
South Shore Cultural Center and Park, future home of a PGA-caliber golf course designed by Tiger Woods.
Altgeld Gardens, the far South Side public housing development where Obama first made his mark in community organizing; and West Garfield Park’s Madison-Pulaski Commercial District, victim of decades of disinvestment on the West Side.
What do they have in common? They’re all on this year’s list of the city’s “7 Most Endangered” historical sites, a compilation issued annually by Preservation Chicago.
“This is our 14th annual release of buildings that are in peril or immediate danger, or threatened with demolition or loss or some type of action that will harm them,” said executive director Ward Miller, who released the list on Wednesday.
“Our purpose is to encourage their reuse and possible restoration and renovation, which can positively impact and enhance our city,” Miller added.
Several of the entities on the 2017 list are endangered because of clearly political decisions.
Jackson Park is one of two grand parks in the city designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux — designers of New York City’s Central Park. It’s could lose 9 acres to Obama’s library.
Then there’s the sculpture by Yoko Ono installed this fall on Wooded Island; the joint park district/Project 120 proposal for an outdoor concert pavilion; and the Tiger Woods golf course that would be carved out of current golf courses at Jackson Park and the South Shore Cultural Center Park.
“There has never been true, robust, community conversations or hearings on each one of these proposals,” Miller said.
“We have to be careful about how we treat an Olmsted park. It’s my opinion this would not even begin to happen in New York City without hundreds of hearings and lots of vetting,” he said. “We’re going about this backwards.”
Other entities on this year’s list include:
• Chicago Union Station Power House, 301 W. Taylor St., circa 1932, its streamlined Art Moderne facades and smokestacks hearken back to the city’s growth as a railroad and transportation center from its pioneering days in the 1850s.
• Cornell Store & Flats, 1230-1232 E. 75th St., circa 1908, designed by Walter Burley Griffin, one of the most famous practitioners of Prairie Style architecture, and built by developer Paul Cornell, known as the “Father of Hyde Park.”
• Chicago Water Cribs, located in Lake Michigan; the Four Mile Crib east of Monroe Harbor, circa 1894, and the Wilson Avenue Crib east of Montrose Harbor, are among eight that once delivered clean water to the city. Six of the structures remain, only two still in use.
• Chicago’s 20th Century Public Sculptures, Loop and Downtown. One of the first cities to require inclusion of public art in its public building program, Chicago has over 100 sculptures, mosaics and paintings in downtown plazas, parks and building lobbies.
Partnering with Landmark Illinois and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the 15-year-old Preservation Chicago works to preserve the city’s historic architecture, neighborhoods and urban spaces.
Some structures on the annual lists have carried over year after year. Many were saved, and others were lost to the wrecking ball.
The Union Station Power House is targeted for demolition by owner Amtrak.
The two water cribs were slated for demolition by the city in 2015.
And the increasing removal, relocation, destruction and sale to private collectors of downtown artworks call for a thematic Landmark District to protect them, Preservation Chicago says.
Altgeld Gardens, at 130th & Ellis in Riverdale, was built in the ’40s for African-American servicemen returning from World War II and their families.
The 157-acre site recently saw two blocks of its two-story rowhouses demolished by CHA, and three more blocks are targeted for teardown.
“This is where our former president began his public service career,” Miller said. “We feel they should be renovated, and if CHA can’t make it happen, it should be sold to a third party that can return them to people in need.”
The Madison-Pulaski District, built between the 1890s and 1930s, was once called a “mini downtown.” Today, its Art Deco, Art Moderne, Modernist and Gothic architecture are decaying, including the historic Hotel Guyon built in 1927 by Jens J. Jensen.
“The Guyon has been on our most endangered list in the past,” Miller said.
“The renovation and restoration of the Guyon and some of these key buildings could do so much for revitalizing a neighborhood that still suffers from the ravages of the 1968 Chicago Riots,” he said.