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Landmarks Illinois names six Chicago-area buildings as most endangered in state

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The list includes the Thompson Center, Illinois fairgrounds

Landmarks Illinois

This year the Illinois Landmarks’ list of most endangered historic places calls attention to sites that represent a unique part of the state’s 200-year history. Thirteen sites make the list—including the controversial Thompson Center.

Other interesting additions are an inn built by early settlers of Geneva, Naperville’s first public library, a retro but now vacant cafe along Route 66 and an assembly hall in Bronzeville where Nat King Cole used to play.

“With some creativity, vision and committed investment, these endangered properties can be preserved and reused,” said Bonnie McDonald, President & CEO of Landmarks Illinois.

While some buildings are only in need of minor repairs, there are locations in such shambles that officials are threatening demolition.

Below we have details on the six locations near Chicago that made the list, and how you might be able to help save them.

Landmarks Illinois

No. 5: The Forum

This assembly hall was built in 1897 and served as the epicenter of the Bronzeville neighborhood. It attracted musicians such as Nat King Cole and Muddy Waters while also housing important civil rights and labor meetings. Today, the building suffers from years disinvestment but the bones of worn out cathedral ceilings still hold some promise.

Landmarks Illinois

No. 6: Old Nichols Library

The first public library in Naperville, the Old Nichols Library, was built in 1898 and designed by architect M.E. Bell. The facade features limestone that was quarried nearby, and while that element is protected, the developer has plans to demolish the remainder of the building for a new project.

Landmarks Illinois

No. 7: Second Church of Christ, Scientist

This Lakeview church was built in 1898 and is one of the oldest operating Christian Science churches in the city. It was designed by S.S. Berman, who was also behind the Pullman Company Town. Although the classical structure sits within a historic district—that doesn’t mean it will get preserved. Lately, the congregation has marketed the building in a way that could potentially allow for extreme renovations or demolition.

Landmarks Illinois

No. 10: Stran-Steel House in Wilmette

One of the only homes on the list, this steel and baked iron home was designed for the Stran-Steel Corporation. It was part of a Homes of Tomorrow exhibit at the 1933 Century of Progress Fair in the city as an example of modern home design. The owner has plans to demolish the building and build two new homes on the property. But, if anyone willing to move the home by this summer can keep it.

Landmarks Illinois

No. 12: Varsity Theater Block in Evanston

The 1700 block of Sherman Avenue is where you might find groups of Northwestern University students and professors in cafes and shops. It’s also one of the last historic blocks that remains intact and home to J.E.O Pridmore’s Varsity Theater. A plan to completely demolish part of the block for new construction was recently put on hold.


No. 13: James R. Thompson Center, Chicago

And last but not least, the controversial Thompson Center—one of Chicago’s most prominent examples of Postmodern architecture designed by Helmut Jahn in 1985. While some Chicagoans think of this building as a glimmering eyesore, it is a favorite of Landmarks Illinois which had it on the endangered list last year. This year, along with the list, new renderings were released to show how the building could be updated.

Other sites that made the list include:

  • No. 1 — An archeological site, Kincaid Mounds built by settlers more than a thousand years ago. Only nine of the original 19 exist in Massac and Pope counties.
  • No. 2 — Two early settlement sites, the Amasa White House and the Mill Race Inn, in Geneva.
  • No. 3 — The Central Congregational Church in Galesburg designed by C.E. Gottschalk and Beadle Architects. This historic building is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • No. 4 — The Rock Island County Courthouse, designed by Fredrick C. Gunn and Louis S. Curtis in a Spanish Renaissance style and built in 1897.
  • No. 8 — Three structures related to the Chautaugqua and Camp Meeting movements in Illinois which include the Waldorf Tabernacle in Des Plaines, the Oakdale Tabernacle in Freeport and the Chatauqua Auditorium in Shelbyville.
  • No. 9 — A few buildings—Barn 13, the Coliseum and the Granstand building on two state fairgrounds in Springfield and Du Quoin.
  • No. 11 — A former restaurant along Route 66 in Fairmont City, the Nite Spot Cafe, which closed in 1984 and remains vacant.