Century and Consumers Buildings, Beverly’s Pike House Top List of Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois
THE LOOP — Two historic Chicago skyscrapers slated for demolition by the federal government top the list of the state’s most endangered historic places.
The Century and Consumers Buildings, 202-220 S. State St. in the Loop, and Eugene S. Pike House, 1826 W. 91st St. in Beverly, were named to Landmarks Illinois’ list of most endangered historic places in 2022. The list aims to draw attention to historic sites in danger of being destroyed in the hope that they can be preserved.
Statewide, this year’s list also includes Elks Lodge No. 64 in Rockford, Gillson Park in Wilmette and the Will County Courthouse in Joliet.
The Century and Consumers buildings in Loop’s Retail Historic District have been vacant for 17 years. The federal government plans to tear them down as part of a $52 million demolition.
Built in the early 1910s, the cream-white terracotta exterior of both buildings was neglected by the federal government which bought the buildings in 2007 for a potential office expansion that never materialized, the Tories said. The Consumers Building was designed by architectural firm Jenney, Mundie & Jensen and the Century designed by Holabird & Roche.
A $141 million plan to build luxury apartments in the buildings was scrapped in 2019 due to security concerns raised by judges at the Dirkson US Courthouse, which adjoins the buildings, according to the Tribune. At the time, Mayor Lori Lightfoot wrote to the federal government that selling the buildings would “create significant public safety vulnerabilities” for courthouse workers.
the federal infrastructure bill passed by Congress last month included $52 million for the demolition of the Century and Consumers buildings. This prompted Landmarks Illinois to include the skyscrapers on their 2022 most endangered list.
The historic buildings represent the Chicago School of Architecture, Landmarks Illinois executives said demolishing the buildings would leave a hole in one of Chicago’s busiest hallways.
“This is completely ridiculous,” said Lisa DiChiera, advocacy director for Landmarks Illinois. “For a dense, urban downtown, you don’t allow half a block of that size to be empty…from a development perspective, that makes absolutely no sense.”
Other preservation groups agree. On March 31, Landmarks Illinois, Preservation Chicago, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation sent a joint letter to a federal administrator asking the agency to preserve the buildings.
“[The General Services Administration] is a leader in federal preservation and an innovator leading other federal agencies in the areas of security, design and planning. We implore the GSA, under your leadership, to continue to apply this level of care and excellence to State Street properties,” the letter reads.
Preservation Chicago recently called on the public to support saving buildings by launching a Change.org petition. To date, it has over 1,000 signatures. The organization also named the Century and Consumers buildings to its list of most endangered buildings.
Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago, told the Block Club the removal of the buildings, which are currently being considered for designation as a Unesco World Heritagewould be a “huge embarrassment” for the city.
Due to the historic status of the buildings, the federal government will have to go through a regulatory review before making a final decision on the site’s fate, DiChiera said.
The Section 106 regulatory review does not guarantee that the buildings will be saved, but does give consulting agencies and the state’s historic preservation office a chance to make their case for preservation, reuse and demolition.
Miller said he would like to see the buildings converted into collaborative national archives centers for faith groups and other organizations. The proposal would bring together historical institutions where researchers and universities could access archives in one space, he said.
An archives center could also easily meet federal security standards since historical records don’t need access to light, Miller explained, so blocking windows with views of the courthouse could easily be done.
Chicago Architectural Center executives are eagerly awaiting to hear from federal authorities during the regulatory review process and are curious about what reuse opportunities will be presented, said Chicago Architectural Center chief content officer Ian Spula.
“If they demolish…we hope they have a vision for the site. We don’t want it sitting vacant and underused for decades,” Spula said.
Based on past experience, DiChiera said the Section 106 process can take months or even years. A most recent example is the Section 106 review for Jackson Park in response to the planned construction of the Obama Presidential Center, which took several years.
“The best-case scenario is that they are retained and the federal dollars that have been allocated are used to stabilize them and come up with a security solution that satisfies the courts,” DiChiera said.
Beverly Pike House
The Eugene S. Pike House, built in the late 19th century, sits at the south end of Dan Ryan Woods in Beverly, Chicago’s South End. The house is known to be used as a “caretaker’s residence” for the Forest Preserve District of Cook County.
The home, located in the National Register Historic District of Ridge, has been vacant for six years. The home has deteriorated significantly and needs an outside user and investor to preserve it, executives at Landmarks Illinois said.
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