Destroying historic Chicago buildings is like "killing the goose that laid the golden egg": "Chicago 7" announced


Jonathan Fine

"Destroying historic Chicago buildings is like 'killing the goose that laid the golden egg,'" said Jonathan Fine, Preservation Chicago's Executive Director, during the press conference announcing Preservation Chicago's, 11th annual "Chicago 7."* 

Citing indifference and the tremendous failure to recognize the value of historic buildings as the biggest obstacle for preservation in Chicago, Fine said, "A building like St. James Church [one of this this year's Chicago 7] has a function and a purpose. It has architectural and social history stories about who we are as Chicagoans, and in many cases, who we are as Americans. 

"These historic structures are a key to economic success. They are not an impediment to economic success. Chicago is the First City of American Architecture. The reason people come to Chicago is because they want to see what their towns don't have. 


Weese's State Bank of Clearing, 1959

"This city relies on tourism as a major economic driver. When you destroy works by Harry Weese (State Clearing Bank), interesting buildings (Hotel Guyon) and social institutions (Lathrop Homes), you're giving people less reasons to come to Chicago." 

Asked to, "Paint a picture of a city that has turned its back on its architectural heritage and give us an example of what happens if people don't pay attention." Fine responded by saying, "As preservationist, we are challenged with demolition of our historic Chicago architecture daily. As the First City of American Architecture, we have an obligation and a duty to do everything that we can to preserve that legacy. 


Century Building, 1915, Holabird and Roche; The Consumers Building, 1913, Jenney, Mundie & Jensen

"After the Fire in 1871, Chicago had an architectural renaissance just as Florence, Rome and Athens had theirs. But unlike in Florence, Rome and Athens, there has not been a perception that historic buildings in Chicago have value. 

"The City has made landmark districts and the City has many individual landmarks and that has been a 50 year struggle and battle. We fight that battle every single day. And the terms of the battle are changing. Five years ago, two of this year's selections (1949 and 1959) would have never been on our list. The fact is that, while we have a legacy of buildings in this city that began with the re-building in 1871, the legacy continues. The architecture of Bertrand Goldberg and Harry Weese are as important to this city as the architecture of Louis Sullivan and Daniel Burnham


Hotel Guyon, 1927, Jens J. Jensen

"That is where we think the failure is. Consequently there is a disconnect. What we think is needed is re- education. 

"I don't think it would be a fair statement to say that Chicago does not care about its architecture. But what I do think is a fair statement is that Chicago needs to do a better job of preserving its architectural heritage. 

"Preservation is not about the past but the future. What is Chicago going to look like in 50 years?  For us to demolish buildings as often and wantonly as has happened and continues to happen, Chicago is going to be a less interesting city. In fact, Chicago becomes less interesting every time we destroy a building." 


St. James Catholic Church

Chorological the span of buildings in this year's Chicago 7 is from 1880 to 1959, the properties include a broad spectrum of structures and uses. Fine, summarized them as "two from the mid Century, a tiny Art Deco jewel, a pioneering Roosevelt era housing complex, twin terra cotta office towers, a limestone church and a jazz-age hotel." 

Those selected are listed below with address, year built and architectural style:


St. James Churches champions Eileen Quigley and David Samber

Three people from St. James Church who attended the conference were filled with hope and appreciation.  "We were very excited to get help from Preservation Chicago. They gave us hope, guidance and leadership, particularly Ward Miller (Preservation Chicago's President).  We were inspired to think about what we are trying to do and how we are doing it," said David Samber "They are professionals who have been thru the trenches and can help us." 

"We now have several hundred people who are part of our network. Ours was originally an Irish congregation that began in 1855. It was on the fringe of Camp Douglas prison. "

"The building was built of Joliet limestone starting in 1875 and finished in 1880. It has an 1891 Roosevelt tracker-pneumatic organ. Originally parishioners were a mix of rich and poor Irish. My grandmother was baptized there in 1897 and she was from a poor large Irish family," said Eileen Quigley."The church was their community."

Virginia Pickens who has been a parishioner for 51 years explained that everyone is determined to save the church. Being one of few consecrated catholic churches remaining, the building has to be a church or razed. 

*The purpose of Preservation Chicago 's “Chicago 7” list is to put a spotlight on often forgotten buildings and districts, bringing them into the public's consciousness. Then their mission is to inform community leaders, elected officials and other stakeholders about the architectural value and social importance of some of these community assets.



Historical Chicago

I left Chicago when I was three years old. I love coming back and seeing the building where I was born, where my grandparents lived, where my father, and mother, grew up. We loved bringing our grandchildren to Lenell's and the the two-year old's feasted on the open bucket of cookies. They are now 14 and still remember their visit. The home where my mother grew up has been torn down the last couple years. My uncles memories of shooting their lead soldiers off the back porch into the yard are now only memories. It is sad to come, and bring our friends to show them the old neighborhoods, taverns, churches, etc... but, to find they are gone. Your city is looking like my city - why should we visit Chicago? I can find all new buildings and condo's in my neighborhood.

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