EVA and Hopkins push to save last vestige of Chicago dairy industry along with community history

Date: 
04/05/2016
Augusta1930sparade

Heading west along Augusta Blvd, the Polish parade passes 1936-1944 with its white facade, probably in the 1930s

"We are 100% committed to saving this building [1944-1936 W. Augusta]," said 2nd Ward Alderman Brian Hopkins. during East Village Association's Monday night meeting in Happy Village, 1059 N Wolcott Ave. "We have a chance to save the building. But the outcome is uncertain." 

Background
The only known remnant of Chicago's early dairy industry, the site is like a panoramic snapshot of time from the 1880s to present day. It went from a residence to  part of Chicago's only Ukrainian dairy to a restaurant. 

Yet, despite that significance, when the surrounding East Village Historic Chicago Landmark District was created in January 2006, the site was, for unclear reasons, determined "non-contributing." 

Leonas

Leona's in 2015

According to Landmarks staff, there is no proof that the current façade was in place before the cutoff date of this district, which is 1929. 

Thus, after Leona's Restaurant closed and the property was sold last fall, the new owners requested permission to demolish the structure. Many people stepped up to prevent that from happening. At a hearing before the Chicago Landmarks Commission last November, many people, including the Alderman, Ward Miller, Preservation Chicago and others, including this writer, testified why the request should be denied. 

The Commissioners would not honor the request of the community, as Landmark's staff insisted that the dairy office addresses on advertisements, the land survey and news stories did not prove that the façade was in place in the 1920s. 

While a photograph showing the façade, close to the existing one was located at the Polish Museum of America, it is believed that the photo, without  a date, actually was taken after 1930, possibly the 40s. However, that dispels the statements that now the front is vastly different than before. 

BHopkins

Alderman Brian Hopkins

Aldermanic action to date
Hopkins tried to amend the Landmark period of the East Village District by extending the end date beyond December 31, 1929, into the 1930's.  It was pointed out that to open the whole period for the district could result in many other unintended consequences. So he was asked to find other alternatives. 

So, the calls went out for everyone to look in attics and basements and to talk to friends and family who used to live in the area. If documentation could be found that would prove that the Augusta site should have been included in the first place, denying demolition would be supported. 

FicaraNiketopoulos

Two 2nd Ward staffers: Christian Ficara and Chief of Staff Steve Niketopoulos

Finding specific documentation was a challenge. As Stephen Rynkiewicz pointed out, there are building permits however, the way records were kept in the 20s, it is impossible to find all the details. 

In addition to maps, advertisements and other accounts, a document was found of an original appraisal of the building in 1963. It stated that the building was 40 years old, putting it in the 1920s time frame. 

In the meantime, Hopkins used his one-time parliamentary move in City Council at its last meeting. At the next Council meeting on Apr. 13, the demolition request will go to the floor. 

WMiller

Ward Miller

What is next
As Neal McKnight, former EVA President, said, "This is not just an East Village issue, it is an asset of the larger community." So everyone who believes in preserving Chicago's and our community histories, please be involved in helping in the search for documentation and in contacting other alderman. 

Miller said that Preservation Chicago is 200% behind saving the structures. Others will continue efforts to find documents. 

Everyone is  encouraged to:

  • keep looking for documents that support that the site's façade in the 1920s
  • contact all the aldermen that you can to request that they say "NO" to demolition of the 1944-36 W. Augusta building at the Apr. 13 meeting of City Council 
    EVA2016Apr

    Megan Dunworth, Bob Zwolinski, Jonathan Kulpit (f), Catherine Garypie and Stephen Rynkiewicz

What happens after the vote
Regardless of the whether demolition is approved, it is hoped that the property owners will, as they said they would, go to the Alderman to talk about their plans. 

Thanks to Alderman Hopkins
Catherine Garypie thanked the Alderman for taking the interest in and time to help the community in this fight, particularly with all the activity going on elsewhere in his Ward such as Finkl's development. As reported in Crain's, Hopkins approached Chicago 's Planning and Development Department to remove the planned manufacturing district along the Clybourn Corridor, which was established in 1988.

"You went to the Commission meeting as a few of us did and that meant a lot. We all appreciated it." Appreciative applause followed.

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