Chicago-based historic preservation nonprofit Landmarks Illinois today released the 2022 edition of its annual list of imperiled historic sites facing demolition, redevelopment, or further deterioration brought on by a prolonged lack of maintenance and/or an absence of funding to carry out much-needed repairs.
Spanning across the Prairie State from Chicagoland to Winnebago County to the mid-sized city of Joliet, this year’s Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois list is a notably abbreviated one compared to editions past—a total of five at-risk historic sites have been included. This is the first time in the program’s 27-year history that less than 10 sites have landed on the list. It’s a positive sign that, more so than ever, communities across Illinois are paying keen attention to threatened historic buildings and landscapes in their own respective backyards and rallying to save them.
“We had a number of places come close to being included on the 2022 list, but thanks to partnerships with local and state government officials and the tireless dedication of local advocates and our staff, these places no longer face an imminent threat,” explained Bonnie McDonald, president and CEO of Landmarks Illinois, in a statement. “We think this year’s more compact Most Endangered list is proof our efforts are working to save Illinois’ historic places.”
Despite the 2022 list being half or more its normal size, five endangered historic sites is still five sites too many; each was nominated by the public and evaluated by the Landmarks Illinois staff, board, and a network of regional advisors. Once a site is included on the list (notable past places include the James R. Thompson Center, Prentice Women’s Hospital, Wrigley Field, and the Cook County Hospital), Landmarks Illinois “remains committed to its preservation efforts, continuing communication and relationships with local advocates and elected officials to provide resources (including small grants) and connections where possible,” the organization pointed out. Often, a site’s inclusion on the list can spark a decades-long relationship between local preservation advocates and Landmarks Illinois.
Like with similar “endangered” historic preservation programs, inclusion on the list isn’t meant to serve as a death rattle but an awareness-raising call to action meant to spur impactful change.
“The 2022 Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois are prominent examples of how a lack of funding, planning, creative vision and political will to invest in our historic sites has a detrimental effect on our communities,” said McDonald. “These endangered sites all have historic, cultural and economic value, and we want their preservation to serve as catalysts for hope and positive change. Demolishing or improperly redeveloping them would rob current and future generations of the chance to experience them and learn about their unique stories.”
Without further ado, below are the 2022’s Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois with brief descriptions of each site as provided by Landmarks Illinois:
Century & Consumers Buildings | Chicago, Cook County
“Two highly visible, early 20th-century commercial buildings at 202-220 S. State St., which sit within the National Register-listed Loop Retail Historic District, face demolition by the federal government. Previous redevelopment plans were halted due to security concerns by the adjacent federal courts, but demolition will leave a noticeable hole in the downtown State Street corridor.”
Eugene S. Pike House | Chicago, Cook County
“The picturesque, late 19th-century home once used as a “Watchman’s Residence” for the Forest Preserve District of Cook County sits at the southern edge of the Dan Ryan Woods and is part of the National Register-listed Ridge Historic District. The house is vacant and deteriorating and needs an outside user and investor.”
Will County Courthouse | Joliet, Will County
“Built in 1969 and designed by Otto Stark of C.F. Murphy Associates in partnership with Krugel, Healy & Moore Architects, the Brutalist building is at risk of demolition due to Will County’s current lack of interest to explore reuse opportunities for the architecturally significant but vacant structure.”
Elks Lodge No. 64 | Rockford, Winnebago County
“A former community meeting space built in 1912, the architecturally significant but long vacant structure faces demolition by neglect. The building, which serves as an important gateway to the West Downtown Rockford Historic District where revitalization and reinvestment is booming, requires emergency repairs as well as a rehabilitation and reuse plan.”
Gillson Park | Wilmette, Cook County
“A 60-acre, Prairie-style public park sitting along Lake Michigan that features naturalist landscapes and open space beloved by locals. However, the Wilmette Park District is considering changes to the 107-year-old park that would alter its passive design and remove greenery to add more roads and parking.”