History Has No Present Only The Past: Exploring Chicago’s Most Endangered Architectural Marvels

Chicago is known for its decorated skyline. The city which made high rise buildings stylish is home for the Willis Tower, Art Deco and Merchandize Mart. Chicago has been influential in the shaping of modern architecture. While the tall, well documented buildings get all the attention, there are gems which are left ignored to deteriorate. To highlight the plight of fading architectural masterpieces, every year the annual Preservation list of Chicago names historical buildings which are on the verge of becoming endangered structures. Some of the names are not just architectural marvels but are also a slice of public art. Preservation Chicago is an organization which brings to notice the forgotten buildings which are either stripped to make room for a steel mammoth or are left to deteriorate. The list of the current year focuses on the items from public works of art to early housing structures hoping that awareness may lead to saving.

  • Cornell Store and Flats: Landmarks Illinois has marked Cornell Store and Flats in the list of endangered buildings. Located on 1230-32 E, 75th Street, this old development of mixed use was built in 1908. Design wise, this building follows the Prairie School of thought and is often cited as a rare example for being a commercial project in the said style format. Cornell Store and Flats was designed by Walter Burley Griffin. Over the years, the building has started to fade away.
  • Altgeld Gardens: The low lung homes spread across the 157 acre site of Altgeld Gardens was constructed in 1913 and 1945 by Naess and Murphym firm. The public housing development is often referred to as the testament to design ideal and good model for public housing system. There are many homes in this garden which have witnessed their fair share of renovation, but other homes which are vacant are in shambles. The mothballed building is raising concerns of imminent demolition. Over the span of the last few years, according to the data from Preservation Chicago, there are 15 buildings which were demolished and 25 are slated for the same fate.
  • Jackson Park and South Shore Cultural Center: There are many changes approaching Jackson Park, a few of which are high profile, large investment opportunities. The commencement of redevelopment translates to consequential improvement in the community. But, redevelopment means deviating from the original design style of Fredrick Law Olmstead’s historic plan for Jackson Park. Also, the lack of information on the plans of redevelopment is raising concerns on the future of the park.
  • Chicago Water Cribs: The archaic water cribs which line the horizon of Lake Michigan may soon be wiped away. Two of the structures, according to Preservation Chicago- the Four Mile Crib erected in 1894 and Wilson Avenue Crib in 1915, make it to the list of this year’s endangered buildings. While these floating structures were seen as futuristic and marvelous designs when they were conceptualized, they still remain aesthetically unique to this day.
  • Union station Power House: It is a known fact that all activities of the Power House ceased after 2011 but the building still remains notable for many reasons. Firstly, the austere and stoic Art Modern Design from Graham, Anderson, Probst & White is an important chapter in the history of Chicago building. Also, during the building was a rail hub in the 20th The current owner of the building has various plans for its future and Preservation Chicago hints that demolition is one of them.

Other buildings which made it to list are Madison Pulaski Commercial District and Chicago’s 20th Century Public Sculpture.