Back in April, Landmarks Illinois announced its annual list of the state's 10 Most Endangered Historic Places—deteriorating and threatened buildings and structures around Illinois, including two this year in Chicago. In the months since, Landmarks' Director of Advocacy Lisa DiChiera says some promising progress has been made to preserve both blues legend Muddy Waters' North Kenwood home and the city's collection of bascule bridges.
4339 S. Lake Park Ave.
A third court date is set for tomorrow regarding the boarded up brick house the musician lived in from 1954 through the 1970s, DiChiera says. At hearings earlier in the summer, the court ordered Neighborhood Housing Services to act as receiver of the property that had previously been deemed dangerous, meaning the group would be responsible for getting estimates on critical repairs. When those estimates were reported in June, Waters' granddaughter, the home's current owner, told the court she had found a potential buyer she felt could purchase the house and make the necessary fixes.
Whether she can demonstrate progress on that front or the house gets turned back over to Neighborhood Services will presumably be determined at tomorrow's hearing.
"The good news here is after we put the property on our 10 Most Endangered list at the next court date after that it was acknowledged in court that the city realizes this is an important property, architecturally it's in a historic district, obviously historically in terms of who it's associated with," DiChiera says. "There's obviously interest in the right thing happening with this building."
Chicago's iconic moveable bridges scored their spot on the list after having been the subject of much buzz in recent years. Some have deteriorated to the point of being inoperable or a safety hazard. DiChiera says she and her colleagues are encouraged by the Chicago Art Deco Society's efforts to nominate the North Ashland bridge for designation with the city's landmark commission in July.
Preservationists also have their eye on that particular bridge as considerations are underway for the Ashland Bus Rapid Transit plans, hoping the development will draw much needed attention to the nearby bridge.
"What we have to now find the opportunity to do is convince officials at CDOT that this structure needs investment," DiChiera says. "And that it continues to have deterioration problems and the time is right for this structure to be addressed."
CDOT is also in the process of preparing a Chicago Bascule Bridge Preservation Plan that will outline a future for the structures, a project DiChiera hopes will result in improvements and investments in the bridges.
"I think our Endangered list helped reiterate that one by one these bridges cannot just be disposed of," DiChiera says. "We probably have more bascule bridges than just about any other city in the world so it's a real defining character of our city today as well as our past, but there is definitely a conscientious effort now by all parties to really look at this holistically and try to come up with a comprehensive plan."