People Saving Places For People
Landmarks Illinois Preservation News
Read about Landmarks Illinois' major advocacy efforts, projects, programs and events during 2019. LI thanks all its partners, on-the-ground advocates, members and supporters for helping us preserve our state's culturally and historically significant places. We hope you will join us in 2020 as we continue to save places for people!
LI files lawsuit in Rock Island to stop the unlawful demolition of historic courthouse
LI Springfield Office Director Frank Butterfield with pro bono attorneys from Jenner & Block at November’s Appellate Court hearing in Ottawa.
Landmarks Illinois took drastic steps this year to carry out its mission of saving places. On February 6, 2019, LI joined the National Trust for Historic Preservation , the Rock Island Preservation Society , the Moline Preservation Society , the Broadway Historic District Association to file a lawsuit against the Rock Island County Public Building Commission and the Rock Island County Board to protect the historically significant Rock Island County Courthouse against demolition in violation of state preservation law.

Specifically, the lawsuit said the PBC and County were proceeding with demolition of the historic courthouse without complying with the Illinois State Historic Resources Preservation Act and the Illinois Public Building Commission Act. LI included the Rock Island County Courthouse on its 2018 & 2019 Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois .

After the case was dismissed in March by Peoria County 10th Circuit Court, LI and fellow plaintiffs filed an appeal. On November 6, nine months to the day since LI originally filed its case, LI’s pro bono attorneys from Jenner & Block presented oral arguments in the Illinois Third District Appellate Court. Since filing the lawsuit, LI made several attempts to settle the case outside of the courtroom, but such offers were rejected by the county.

While the appellate court considers the case, residents of Rock Island continue to call on the County Board to evaluate the private reuse of the courthouse. Landmarks Illinois remains willing to work with the county on a process to evaluate private reuse of the historic courthouse, engaging developers who have expressed interest in the building and avoiding prolonged litigation. 
LI finds new home for Ebony Test Kitchen, ensuring preservation of culturally significant site
The Ebony Test Kitchen in the former Johnson Publishing Company building in Chicago. Credit: Lee Bey
In May, Landmarks Illinois selected the Museum of Food and Drink (MOFAD) as the new owner and steward of the Ebony Test Kitchen, the iconic test kitchen formerly located in the Johnson Publishing Company Building in Chicago. Landmarks Illinois staff and volunteers, including members of LI Skyline Council, documented and removed the kitchen from the Chicago landmarked building in 2018 to ensure it would be preserved ahead of the building’s transformation into private apartments. Placed safely in storage, LI then sought proposals from organizations and individuals interested in taking ownership of the kitchen and showcasing it for educational or reuse purposes.

Designed by Palm Springs-based interior designers William Raiser and Arthur Elrod in 1971, the Ebony Test Kitchen featured orange, swirled psychedelic wallpaper and bright colored cabinets and appliances. MOFAD, based in Brooklyn, New York, will showcase the Ebony Test Kitchen in its anticipated traveling exhibition, “ African/American: Making the Nation’s Table .” After its initial display in Manhattan at The Africa Center, the kitchen and exhibit is expected to travel across the United States, giving the opportunity for a large audience in multiple locations to experience the place where Ebony magazine food editors like Charlotte Lyons and Charla Draper tested and prepared recipes that would appear in the popular magazine. 
Read more in the news:

New York Times, February 12

Landmarks Illinois Preservation News Blog, April 2

Landmarks Illinois press release, May 21

Crain’s Chicago Business, May 21

WBEZ, September 21
Bloomington’s historic State Farm Building saved from demolition
Members of the "Save Our State Farm Building” coalition, including LI's Frank Butterfield (second from right).
Landmarks Illinois celebrated a major preservation win in 2019 when the historic former State Farm headquarters building in Bloomington was saved from demolition. The 13-story, Art-Deco building was constructed in 1929 and is a contributing property to Bloomington’s downtown National Register Historic District. State Farm has been trying to sell the building since 2018, and when a previous buyer fell through, the insurance company announced in July 2019 that it would instead move toward demolishing the structure.

Following that announcement, local advocates in Bloomington reached out to Landmarks Illinois for advice and expertise on how to push for preservation, rather than demolition, of the historic building. LI’s Springfield Office Director Frank Butterfield joined the “Save Our State Farm Building” coalition, aimed to draw attention to the historic building. Following the group’s media outreach, on September 6, State Farm announced Rockford-based Urban Equity Properties LLC would purchase the historic building with plans to use historic tax credits to convert it to apartments. Construction is expected to start in July 2020.
State Historic Tax Credit goes into effect in Illinois
Cook County Hospital, one of the projects selected to receive state historic tax credits. Credit: Liz Chilsen
After advocating for a statewide tax incentive to spur preservation projects across Illinois for more than a decade, Landmarks Illinois was excited to have the new Illinois Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program begin at the start of the New Year. The program, signed into law by former Gov. Bruce Rauner in the summer of 2018, kicked off January 1, 2019, and provides a state income-tax credit equal to 25% of a project’s Qualified Rehabilitation Expenditures (QREs), not to exceed $3 million in credits, to owners of income-producing historic structures who undertake certified rehabilitation projects. The tax credit program is administered by the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

SHPO has announced two rounds of funding allocations to historic preservation projects around the state. Projects set to receive tax credits from the first round include the Cook County Hospital Administration Building, which LI advocated for the reuse of for 20 years, and Hotel Belleville, included on LI’s Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois in 2014. 
Preservation push continues for Postmodern Thompson Center as state pursues sale
Landmarks Illinois has been advocating for the preservation of the state-owned James R. Thompson Center in Chicago’s Loop for years, but in 2019, it took the rare step of naming it for the third time in a row to the Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois . LI first included the Postmodern building, constructed in 1985 and designed by Helmut Jahn, on the 2017 Most Endangered list and relisted it again in 2018 as well as this year due to its increasingly uncertain future. In 2018, LI also released renderings of “Thompson Center Reimagined,” which we continue to promote as a reuse option for the building.

The State of Illinois has continued to pursue selling the building, which could lead to its demolition if reuse is not required in a sale of the site. This heightened threat to the building led the National Trust for Historic Preservation to include the Thompson Center on its nationwide 11 Most Endangered Places list in 2019 , announced in May. LI helped draw attention to that designation through a #MyThompsonCenter social media campaign encouraging people to share their photos of why they loved the unique, one-of-a-kind structure.

In August, the state issued a request for proposals for technical and project management services associated with a sale of the building. On December 12, the state announced it chose Ernst & Young for those services.

As a possible sale of Thompson Center moves forward, LI and preservation partners will continue to call for retention and reuse of the irreplaceable building in any future sale of the site. The Thompson Center was determined eligible in 2009 for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, and if listed, a developer or purchaser of the building could use Federal Historic Tax Credits for its rehabilitation. Local landmark designation could provide additional incentives. LI is happy to be partnering with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Preservation Chicago, AIA Chicago, DOCOMOMO US & DOCOMOMO Chicago and International Building Performance Simulation Association on this important effort.
Heart Bombing, updated condition assessment report boost advocacy efforts for Harley Clarke Mansion in Evanston
Members of the Skyline Council of Landmarks Illinois heart bombed the Harley Clarke Mansion in February. Credit: Lewis Purdy.
Since including the Harley Clarke Mansion on the 2016 Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois, Landmarks Illinois has continued to work with local advocates, city officials and others to find a preservation solution for the historic, lakefront property in Evanston. In February, LI’s young & emerging professionals committee, the Skyline Council, led a heartboming event in partnership with Friends of Harley Clarke at the mansion to bring attention to the beloved community landmark.

Months later, in May, the City of Evanston issued a request for proposal s for the long-term lease, rehabilitation and reuse of the Harley Clarke Mansion and coach house. To help those interested in submitting a response to the RFP, Landmarks Illinois worked with Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc. to prepare an updated condition assessment report on the historic mansion and its coach house. That assessment, available on the LI website , found the 91-year-old structure in stable and repairable condition. The report details and prioritizes repairs needed at the property and offers cost estimates for such work.

As of the beginning of December, two draft plans for reuse of Harley Clarke had been presented at previous public meetings. The city’s RFP deadline is February 20, 2020. Also earlier this month, Friends of Harley Clarke launched the “ Harley Clarke Priority Preservation Campaign .” Evanston Community Lakehouse and Gardens continues advocacy efforts as well. 
Rare block of Queen Anne Cottages on S. Claremont Avenue designated City of Chicago Landmark District 
Lisa DiChiera, Director of Advocacy, with Lori Christopher, one of the S. Claremont homeowners who led the campaign for Chicago Landmark District designation.
The City of Chicago approved landmark designation in November for the Claremont Cottage Historic District - a block of unique, Queen Anne cottages in Chicago’s Tri Taylor neighborhood. Several years ago, homeowners on S. Claremont Avenue initially reached out to Landmarks Illinois for guidance on protecting their 19th century Chicago cottages, which continues to be a disappearing building type in the city. The group of 17 Queen Anne Cottages were built in 1884, and despite some alterations made to the exterior of a handful of cottages, they all retain the physical characteristics that define their architectural significance, making the block a rarity in Chicago. The cottages are contributing structures within the Tri-Taylor National Register Historic District, which is only honorific and offers no protection. The district’s proximity to the Illinois Medical District and the increasingly high market values of the larger University Village area had made the cottages vulnerable to demolition and replacement.

As threats continued for S. Claremont Avenue at the start of 2019, Landmarks Illinois ramped up its advocacy efforts to help push for a City of Chicago Landmark District, which was the only way to guarantee this rare surviving group of Queen Anne Cottages remain safe from future redevelopment. After LI provided a Preservation Heritage Fund Grant to help residents and the Tri-Taylor Neighborhood Association hire a consultant who prepared a Chicago Landmark designation report, LI Director of Advocacy Lisa DiChiera attended with residents all Commission on Chicago Landmarks meetings to testify on behalf of the proposed district. LI led a tour of the block for LI Board Members and supporters to feature the unique cottages and hear from homeowners on why they wanted to preserve their historic homes. Since the Landmark designation, LI continues to provide technical assistance to homeowners about repair opportunities and potential financial incentives available for rehabilitation.

Skyline Council’s historic schoolhouse restoration project wins award
The Whitney Schoolhouse is moved off its existing foundation to prepare for a new one. Credit: Erica Ruggiero.
LI’s young and emerging professionals committee, the Skyline Council , made major advancements on its long-term service project restoring the Whitney Schoolhouse, a one-room schoolhouse in Campton Hills constructed in 1852 by John Whitney. The Skyline Council, led by Service Subcommittee Chair Erica Ruggiero, began the project in 2015, and has since raised nearly $150,000 in pro-bono services, donated supplies and grants to complete investigative work, clean-up, construction of a new foundation and structural repairs. In 2019, Ruggiero’s and the Council’s efforts at the schoolhouse were honored with a historic preservation award at the 31st annual Garfield Farm Museum award ceremony

Also this year, in July, the Skyline Council cohosted a community celebration with Campton Township at the Daniel Whitney Residence and Farmstead, allowing people to see up close the second-oldest, one-room schoolhouse in northeastern Illinois and tour other historic buildings at the site. The celebration took place after Campton Township announced it would purchase the previously privately owned 6.1-acre farmstead, which would allow the Whitney Schoolhouse to be restored at its original location. Prior to this purchase, the Skyline Council was preparing to have to move the schoolhouse in order to preserve it. 

This fall, Skyline Council oversaw construction of the start of a new foundation including a new concrete footing and foundation wall with a limestone veneer, composed of limestone salvaged from the original foundation, to restore the historic aesthetic. Structural repairs including the replacement of two severely deteriorated perimeter beams and joist repair also were completed. A $5,000 grant to Campton Township from Landmarks Illinois’ Preservation Heritage Grant Program will also help fund structural repairs at the schoolhouse. 

The Skyline Council continues fundraising efforts for the schoolhouse project. In 2020, Skyline Council plans to complete the new foundation construction and begin exterior restoration work to the structure including replacing the roof, installing a gutter system, restoring the historic windows and door, accompanying trim and the exterior clapboards, and paint all exterior elements. To date, Skyline Council has raised $16,400 of the $66,900 specifically needed for the exterior restoration work. In 2020, the committee plans to apply for numerous grants to help its fundraising efforts and continues to take donations through its Go Fund Me campaign
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What else did LI do in 2019...
  • Landmarks Illinois celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois in 2019. For 25 years, the annual advocacy list, announced each spring, has brought much-needed awareness to public- and private-owned buildings, archaeological sites, homes, schools, places of worship and more, that have been threatened by deterioration, lack of maintenance, insufficient funds or inappropriate development. To mark the anniversary, LI took a look back on some of the once threatened historic places the advocacy program has helped to save. Explore the sites here.

  • A site LI included on its 2018 Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois, the State Fairgrounds in Springfield, had much-needed maintenance occur this year. The Most Endangered listing specifically called attention to the Coliseum building, the largest structure at the fairgrounds, built in 1901. In January, restoration work began on the building and was completed in time for the State Fair this summer. The project was part of a $30 million funding package for improvement to the state fairgrounds, approved by the General Assembly in 2018.

  • LI marked the completion of an important restoration project at the National Historic Landmark, the Oscar Stanton De Priest Apartment Building in Bronzeville. The restoration project at the De Priest building began in 2017 when Landmarks Illinois was awarded a $250,000 grant from the National Park Service’s African American Civil Rights Grant Program to carry out essential roof and masonry repairs. A celebration of the project will take place on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Monday, January 20, 2020. Learn more about the project and event here.

  • Landmarks Illinois was among the many voices that spoke out this year in opposition to a proposal from the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust in Oak Park to move, demolish and/or alter two properties within the Frank Lloyd Wright-Prairie School of Architecture Historic District to make way for a larger visitor center. Oak Park’s Historic Preservation Commission ended up denying the FLWT proposal, and the group said it would not appeal the decision but instead reconsider its plan. Read LI's statements here.

  • Landmarks Illinois Board Members were treated to a historic tour of Springfield this spring. The annual board tour took place the weekend of May 31-June 1 giving Board Members the chance to learn about the state’s capital, history and many historic sites. See some highlights here.

  • LI held its 48th Annual Meeting June 26, 2019, in Chicago's historic Pilsen neighborhood at the Natural Museum of Mexican Art. The event included tours of the neighborhood's architecture and numerous murals. You can see pictures of the event here. LI also continues to work with local advocates and city officials on preservation solutions for the unique Chicago neighborhood. Download LI's Annual Report here.

  • The City of Yorkville announced this summer it had selected a developer to purchase and renovate the historic Kendall County Sheriff’s Residence & Jail in Yorkville, which LI included on its 2003 Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois. The announcement was welcomed news after LI had for many months worked with local advocates to persuade city officials to issue a Request for Proposals for the historic site’s reuse instead of pursuing demolition.

  • Landmarks Illinois President & CEO Bonnie McDonald was appointed to the Illinois Route 66 Centennial Commission this fall. McDonald was selected to serve on the commission by Jim Durkin, minority leader of the Illinois House of Representatives, who was able to appoint two public members. The commission is dedicated to planning and promoting future events to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the “Mother Road” in 2026. Read more about this honor and future plans for the commission here. 

  • LI’s Springfield Office Director Frank Butterfield spent months this year working with local advocates in Paxton to oppose demolition plans for the historic Eastlawn School, a 94-year-old school determined eligible for listing on the National Register. The group put pressure on the local school district to answer the public’s questions about required permits for demolition while urging them to list the building for sale. Unfortunately, the school district decided to proceed with a $1.1 million demolition, and the community saw the historic structure torn down in November.

  • Another former Most Endangered site, the Black Hawk Statue in Oregon, also underwent much-needed restoration this year. Work, as of early December, was nearing completion on the 108-year-old monument at Lowden State Park and was expected to be done by the new year. 

  • Landmarks Illinois was honored at an AIA Illinois awards ceremony in February for its efforts helping to pass the new Illinois statewide tax credit program. LI President & CEO Bonnie McDonald accepted the 2018 President’s Award from AIA Illinois on behalf of the organization at the ceremony at the Chicago Architecture Center.

Stay tuned in 2020 for...
  • Speaking of major LI staff anniversaries, Director of Advocacy Lisa DiChiera will celebrate 20 years at the organization in 2020.

  • LI’s Springfield Office Director Frank Butterfield is currently assisting Springfield business and property owners as they prepare for proposed plans for a new university campus in the downtown historic district, which could threaten their historic buildings. The project will continue in 2020 and stay tuned for future updates.

  • With the Edgewater Historical Society, LI has been advocating for the preservation of the Pond and Pond-designed Ken Nordine House at 6106 N. Kenmore. Orange-rated in the city’s historic resources survey, a 90-day demolition delay was triggered on December 12 when the owner applied for a demolition permit. LI identified an interested purchaser who would have retained the house as part of a larger redevelopment project, but his purchase offer was rejected. If you are an Edgewater resident, please reach out to Alderman Harry Osterman and voice your support for this important home.

  • Earlier this fall, Landmarks Illinois sponsored a condition assessment report for the former St. Mary’s Carmelite Church in Joliet – a historic church LI included on its 2005 Chicagoland Watch List and now faces an uncertain future since Joliet’s City Council did not approve the Joliet Historic Preservation Commission’s recommendation to landmark the building. LI’s Director of Advocacy will continue to work with local advocates, officials and other professionals to help advocate for preservation of the historic church in the New Year.

  • Skyline Council started an art installation project at The Forum in Bronzeville in 2019 that it plans to continue in the New Year. So far, artist Sam Kirk installed a mural on one of the boarded up windows at the LI 2018 Most Endangered site, activating the vacant space.

  • Keep an eye out for invitations for future Preservation Snapshots Lectures in 2020! LI welcomed speakers from across the nation in 2019 to lead lectures and will continue to do so in the New Year. In 2019, lectures were led by Myrick Howard from Preservation North Carolina and Donovan Rypkema of PlaceEconomics, for example. See Rypkema’s presentation here. Next lecture is January 22, 2020, and will feature Tom Mayes of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

  • Landmarks Illinois has already started planning for the organization’s 50th anniversary in 2021. In 2019, we formed a 50th anniversary task force of leaders from around Chicago and Illinois who will help lead LI and historic preservation in Illinois into the future. Stay tuned for more announcements as we prepare for this milestone!

  • Make sure to follow us on social media! Check out our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages to stay up to date on the latest projects, events and more! You can see pictures from all past events at the LI Flickr page, too!
Join us in 2020 as we save historic and culturally significant places across the state! Our Monthly Giving program allows you to chose a set amount to donate each month, making it easy and convenient for you to support Landmarks Illinois!
Landmarks Illinois Annual Corporate Sponsors
Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc.