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University of Chicago demolishes historic ‘taxi building’ across from Jackson Park

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The 1928 structure will be replaced by a vacant lot for the foreseeable future

A two-story brick and concrete with a traditional architectural detailing, including terracotta ornamentation.
The American Taxi Service building, located at 5608 S. Stony Island Avenue.
Photo courtesy of Eric Allix Rogers

The University of Chicago is proceeding with its demolition of a historic building across from Jackson Park at 5608 S. Stony Island Avenue. Known as the American Taxi Service Building, the school-owned property was completed in 1928 and featured a sturdy brick and concrete construction with terracotta ornamentation and glass block windows.

Although the 91-year-old building seemed to be in reasonable shape from the outside, university officials told the Chicago Maroon in September that it was “unsafe” and in state of “terrible disrepair.” The structure also failed a city code inspection in June, according to the publication. A university representative said the school has no future plans for the property once the building is brought down.

Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago, tells Curbed Chicago that he would have liked to have seen more engagement with local stakeholders regarding the fate of the now-doomed building. “Perhaps there was a nonprofit in the neighborhood that could have used the space?” Miller suggests. “It’s being demolished for—all we know—a vacant parcel, so it seems especially wasteful.”

The demolition is part of a larger conversation the University of Chicago needs to have about historic preservation, says Miller. “It would be great if the school was more receptive to landmarking buildings on its campus that meet the criteria for protection, as well as engage in more robust discussions about what is being done with its off-campus sites such as the taxi building,” says the preservationist.

An editorial letter published this summer by the Chicago Sun-Times suggested the soon-to-be-vacant lot as an alternative site for the upcoming Obama Presidential Center. The controversial project has endured pushback and a legal challenge over its location in nearby historic Jackson Park. Neither the Obama Foundation nor the University Chicago indicated that the Jackson Park site is under reconsideration.