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The Union Station Power House on the South Branch of the Chicago River.
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These are Chicago’s most endangered buildings in 2020

Sites include the Thompson Center, the Chicago Town & Tennis Club, and more

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The Union Station Power House on the South Branch of the Chicago River.
| Getty Images/iStockphoto

Each year the city’s leading nonprofit historic preservation group, Preservation Chicago, announces the “Chicago 7”—a list of seven significant buildings, pieces of infrastructure, parks, or public artworks that it considers most endangered. This year’s lineup includes a mix of new sites—like the Chicago Town & Tennis Club and commercial districts in Roseland and Back of the Yards—and several returning sites highlighted before.

“This year we continue to see the threat to our public resources, which is of great concern—from the potential sale of the James R. Thompson Center, to the loss of 20 acres of Lakefront parklands in Jackson Park, the Midway and the South Shore Cultural Center for the proposed Obama Presidential Center,” said Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago, in a statement.

“We need to prioritize strategies that put preservation first in public policy and practice, so the history that ties us to our communities and connects us to place can be protected.” Here’s a look at Preservation Chicago’s seven most endangered sites in 2020.

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1. Jackson Park, South Shore Cultural Center, and Midway Plaisance

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Jackson Park
Chicago, IL

Jackson Park makes Preservation Chicago’s list for the fourth consecutive year for the threats posed to the historic Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux-designed landscape by the Barack Obama Presidential Center and a new PGA-grade golf course. 2020 will prove to be a critical year for the park as an ongoing federal review studying the projects’ adverse effects is set to conclude this summer. Preservation Chicago says it supports the Obama Center coming to Chicago, but would rather see it built on private vacant land in Washington Park. The organization also advocates for additional protections for Chicago’s lakefront parks, such as becoming a Chicago Landmark or even a National Park.

Photo by Eric Allix Rogers, courtesy of Preservation Chicago

2. James R. Thompson Center

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100 W Randolph St #4-300
Chicago, IL 60601

A perennial feature on the Chicago 7 list, the James R. Thompson Center is back in 2020. The fight to save the 1980s postmodern structure by architect Helmut Jahn takes on a special urgency this year given the state’s recent moves to find a private buyer for the controversial government-owned building. “As Illinois residents, we understand the financial pressures that our legislature is working under,” said Preservation Chicago in a statement. “Utilizing revenues from the sale, the James R. Thompson Center would make a small dent in the unfunded pension deficit, but the history of Chicago’s built environment does not need to be erased to get there. There are preservation-sensitive ways to give developers the density they seek.” 

Photo by Eric Allix Rogers, courtesy of Preservation Chicago

3. Union Station Powerhouse

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301 W Taylor St
Chicago, IL 60607

The iconic twin-smokestack structure along the south branch of the Chicago River was designed in the Art Moderne style by the architectural firm of Graham, Anderson, Probst & White. The difficult-to-reach building hasn’t generated power since 2011, and owner Amtrak is looking at demolishing the structure and putting a maintenance shed in its place. Despite the many challenges associated with the site, preservationists are hoping to see the power house saved and converted to a new use—like a data center or cooling plant. The building also appeared on Preservation Chicago’s 2017 list.

Photo by Eric Allix Rogers, courtesy of Preservation Chicago

4. Chicago Town & Tennis Club

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1925 W Thome Ave
Chicago, IL 60660

Noted early 20th-century architect George W. Maher built this impressive Tudor Revival structure in West Ridge during the mid-1920s. It served as a tennis clubhouse and was later home to various social clubs and even a church. In 2019, Misericordia Home, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting individuals with developmental disabilities, purchased the site and revealed plans to demolish the building and construct supportive housing in its place. Construction is set to begin in late 2020, and preservationists are working to come up with a plan to save the old Chicago Town & Tennis Club. One potential solution is to move the building to nearby Emmerson Park to become a Park District fieldhouse and event space.

Photo by Serhii Chrucky, courtesy Preservation Chicago

5. Washington Park National Bank

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6300 S Cottage Grove Ave
Chicago, IL 60637

Also under threat is the Washington Park National Bank in Woodlawn—a neoclassical limestone structure designed by architect Albert Schwartz in 1924. The Cook County Land Bank Authority acquired the neglected structure in 2017 and more recently approved a plan to sell the property to developer DL3 Realty, which would demolish the bank building and construct a new mixed-use project in its place. Preservationists continue to push solutions to redevelop the transit-oriented site in a way that preserves its historic architecture. The Washington Park National Bank also appeared on Preservation Chicago’s annual list once before, back in 2016.  

Photo by Eric Allix Rogers, courtesy Preservation Chicago

6. Central Manufacturing District

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2129 W Pershing Rd
Chicago, IL 60609

This cluster of large-scale commercial buildings was constructed in a variety of architectural styles along Pershing Road, just south of McKinley Park, in the early 20th-century. Today, many of these buildings are vacant or underutilized and have become vulnerable. Although the district is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the designation does not protect the buildings from being torn down. It is Preservation Chicago’s recommendation that the area becomes a Chicago Landmark district. The change will prevent future demolition and “keep this important part of our city’s industrial history intact and ensure that the community and all stakeholders will have more control over how the area can be developed in the future.”

Photo by Eric Allix Rogers, courtesy Preservation Chicago

7. Roseland Michigan Avenue Commercial District

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11100 S Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL 60628

Lining Michigan Avenue between 100th and 116th streets, this once-thriving commercial corridor in the Far South Side neighborhood of Roseland has seen many of its older character buildings lost or renovated beyond recognition. A 2019 survey conducted by preservationists identified at least 12 historic buildings along the Michigan Avenue corridor that are in an extremely vulnerable condition. According to Preservation Chicago, Roseland has a great opportunity to capitalize on visitors to nearby Pullman National Monument by “investing in its existing historic buildings, enforcing building code violations by negligent owners, and sensibly develop vacant parcels along the corridor.”

Photo by Eric Allix Rogers, courtesy Preservation Chicago

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1. Jackson Park, South Shore Cultural Center, and Midway Plaisance

Jackson Park, Chicago, IL
Photo by Eric Allix Rogers, courtesy of Preservation Chicago

Jackson Park makes Preservation Chicago’s list for the fourth consecutive year for the threats posed to the historic Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux-designed landscape by the Barack Obama Presidential Center and a new PGA-grade golf course. 2020 will prove to be a critical year for the park as an ongoing federal review studying the projects’ adverse effects is set to conclude this summer. Preservation Chicago says it supports the Obama Center coming to Chicago, but would rather see it built on private vacant land in Washington Park. The organization also advocates for additional protections for Chicago’s lakefront parks, such as becoming a Chicago Landmark or even a National Park.

Jackson Park
Chicago, IL

2. James R. Thompson Center

100 W Randolph St #4-300, Chicago, IL 60601
Photo by Eric Allix Rogers, courtesy of Preservation Chicago

A perennial feature on the Chicago 7 list, the James R. Thompson Center is back in 2020. The fight to save the 1980s postmodern structure by architect Helmut Jahn takes on a special urgency this year given the state’s recent moves to find a private buyer for the controversial government-owned building. “As Illinois residents, we understand the financial pressures that our legislature is working under,” said Preservation Chicago in a statement. “Utilizing revenues from the sale, the James R. Thompson Center would make a small dent in the unfunded pension deficit, but the history of Chicago’s built environment does not need to be erased to get there. There are preservation-sensitive ways to give developers the density they seek.” 

100 W Randolph St #4-300
Chicago, IL 60601

3. Union Station Powerhouse

301 W Taylor St, Chicago, IL 60607
Photo by Eric Allix Rogers, courtesy of Preservation Chicago

The iconic twin-smokestack structure along the south branch of the Chicago River was designed in the Art Moderne style by the architectural firm of Graham, Anderson, Probst & White. The difficult-to-reach building hasn’t generated power since 2011, and owner Amtrak is looking at demolishing the structure and putting a maintenance shed in its place. Despite the many challenges associated with the site, preservationists are hoping to see the power house saved and converted to a new use—like a data center or cooling plant. The building also appeared on Preservation Chicago’s 2017 list.

301 W Taylor St
Chicago, IL 60607

4. Chicago Town & Tennis Club

1925 W Thome Ave, Chicago, IL 60660
Photo by Serhii Chrucky, courtesy Preservation Chicago

Noted early 20th-century architect George W. Maher built this impressive Tudor Revival structure in West Ridge during the mid-1920s. It served as a tennis clubhouse and was later home to various social clubs and even a church. In 2019, Misericordia Home, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting individuals with developmental disabilities, purchased the site and revealed plans to demolish the building and construct supportive housing in its place. Construction is set to begin in late 2020, and preservationists are working to come up with a plan to save the old Chicago Town & Tennis Club. One potential solution is to move the building to nearby Emmerson Park to become a Park District fieldhouse and event space.

1925 W Thome Ave
Chicago, IL 60660

5. Washington Park National Bank

6300 S Cottage Grove Ave, Chicago, IL 60637
Photo by Eric Allix Rogers, courtesy Preservation Chicago

Also under threat is the Washington Park National Bank in Woodlawn—a neoclassical limestone structure designed by architect Albert Schwartz in 1924. The Cook County Land Bank Authority acquired the neglected structure in 2017 and more recently approved a plan to sell the property to developer DL3 Realty, which would demolish the bank building and construct a new mixed-use project in its place. Preservationists continue to push solutions to redevelop the transit-oriented site in a way that preserves its historic architecture. The Washington Park National Bank also appeared on Preservation Chicago’s annual list once before, back in 2016.  

6300 S Cottage Grove Ave
Chicago, IL 60637

6. Central Manufacturing District

2129 W Pershing Rd, Chicago, IL 60609
Photo by Eric Allix Rogers, courtesy Preservation Chicago

This cluster of large-scale commercial buildings was constructed in a variety of architectural styles along Pershing Road, just south of McKinley Park, in the early 20th-century. Today, many of these buildings are vacant or underutilized and have become vulnerable. Although the district is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the designation does not protect the buildings from being torn down. It is Preservation Chicago’s recommendation that the area becomes a Chicago Landmark district. The change will prevent future demolition and “keep this important part of our city’s industrial history intact and ensure that the community and all stakeholders will have more control over how the area can be developed in the future.”

2129 W Pershing Rd
Chicago, IL 60609

7. Roseland Michigan Avenue Commercial District

11100 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60628
Photo by Eric Allix Rogers, courtesy Preservation Chicago

Lining Michigan Avenue between 100th and 116th streets, this once-thriving commercial corridor in the Far South Side neighborhood of Roseland has seen many of its older character buildings lost or renovated beyond recognition. A 2019 survey conducted by preservationists identified at least 12 historic buildings along the Michigan Avenue corridor that are in an extremely vulnerable condition. According to Preservation Chicago, Roseland has a great opportunity to capitalize on visitors to nearby Pullman National Monument by “investing in its existing historic buildings, enforcing building code violations by negligent owners, and sensibly develop vacant parcels along the corridor.”

11100 S Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL 60628