Historic Preservation and heritage in depth

A service of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference, its Preservation and Development task force, and the HPKCC website, www.hydepark.org. Help support our program: Join the Conference!

To History and Preservation home and index to topic pages now up. To Preservation Hot. To Preservation Beat. To Landmarks Designation process and criteria. To At the Historical Society.


Shoreland conversion page

Of interest


Hyde Park Career Academy endangered: Fact or Fiction? The Hyde Park Herald carried a letter October 15 suggesting there are plans to demolish Hyde Park High, so important to Hyde Park and Woodlawn-indeed South Side--history. This would not be the first time this was urged--it was in the 60's by the Board and with urging from Julian Levi of the U of C and SECC. But the office of 5th Ward Alderman Leslie Hairston, in whose ward the school is, says such is definitely not the plan and the alderman as introduced landmark status in City Council. However, the plans are on hold because there have been so many alterations to the building over the years.

Upwards of 25 historic Chicago firehouses got a fast track towards landmark designation, among them that at 46th and Cottage Grove. Designation is expected to come up soon in City Council for the house at 4600 Cottage Grove (Co. 45 Truck 15) and Woodlawn (Co. 61) as well as several other. This site of a vintage 1928 firehouse was first used as such by the Village of Hyde Park in 1884. That was a two-story frame structure. The present house designed by Argyle E. Robinson, who attended Hyde Park High and the Armour Institute, is red brick and cream terra cotta and cost $54,000 at the time. That in Woodlawn was designed by the same architect and erected also in 1928.

Latest to get landmark recommendation: St. Gelasius Church in Woodlawn, Charles Comiskey's 1901 house in Washington Park, the last 19th century home in Douglas.

Shrine of Christ the King/St. Gelasius Catholic Church, 6415 S. Woodlawn.
UPDATE: (Feb. 28 2016) Good News- The Shrine of Christ the King at 64th and Kimbark will be rebuilt. The deed is being given to the Institute by the Archdiocese. Nearly a million of needed $6 M has been raised; the Institute must raise the rest. Engineers have been hired. Stabilization will be first priority.

The only watched church actually lost lately was Immanuel Lutheran in Woodlawn, September 2004. See also Religious Places and Preservation, Landmarking. January 2016- after the serious fire in October, the Archdiocese has decided to tear the structure down. There is not insurance and the A says rebuilding would be cost prohibitive. The A has offered another, vacant Catholic church building or to tobuild a smaller structure on the site.

According to Jack Spicer, The hearing room Jan 7 2016 was packed with people who came to support St Gelasius. People from the congregation and from the surrounding community testified to the importance to them of the historic church building. The people asked the Commissioners merely for more time to find a way to save the building.

The Commission replied that all it could do was insist that the owner, the Archdiocese of Chicago, protect the public from potential danger as a result of the recent fire. The Archdiocese can choose how to do that -- rebuild, stabilize, or demolish; but it must do something. The Archdiocese claims it cannot afford to rebuild or even stabilize, and has obtained a demolition permit. They could begin demolition at any moment.

The people asked the commissioners to use their influence to encourage the Archdiocese to give the congregation and the community more time to save their church. If you would like to add your voice to those who are asking the Archdiocese for more time, please go to this website:


Truly sad is the uprooting of so many old, large trees in our parks, and especially the patriarch of Chicago park trees, a 273 year old burr oak. If Doug Anderson's dating is right, this tree started from an acorn in 1730, two years before George Washington was born. The wood will not be sent to the chipper, Brian Williquette, PD arborist promises. Part could be used for a memorial, such as a bench or sculpture. (Give ideas to Gary Ossewaarde, or Doug Anderson.) The stump will be left in hopes it will re-sprout. Lost trees are to be replaced in situ and with the same species or as close to historic template as possible, according to Lakefront Director Megan McDonald. Lost in Jackson Park: 144, in Washington Park: 218, Midway: about a couple dozen. Citywide over 2,000. To Old Oak, to Doug Anderson's memorial and his tour of Lost Wooded Island.


Harper Theater (visit Theater page for much more depth, latest.)

HPKCC wanted to know, what will the University decide for the Harper Theater and Herald buildings? And we undertook an engineering study that may have influenced the beautiful restoration/renovation and the reopening the theaters!

Old: The jury is out, according to University leaders at the end of May, 2003. HPKCC and others (including the Stanek's) had some ideas for short-term uses uses such as summer film Senior Cinema/children's mini festivals or for adaptive reuse as a community cultural center. However, Ms. Reizner of Real Estate Operations informed the Conference that the interior and building systems were stripped and cannot be put in a state to host anything. Also, the University is said to be assembling the property to the north of the theater. It is possible they will decide to tear the complex down. Many hope that at least the facade, especially of the Herald complex, can be saved. The Herald Building is a marker of 53rd and Hyde Park, along with the theater facade, and an important home to small businesses that maintain a human scale on the street. Hyde Park Hair Salon is a culturally and historically significant fixture, and the third oldest business in Hyde Park! Send your ideas and views to Hank Webber, University of Chicago Vice President for Community and Government Affairs, and to the Conference. We will be asking again, soon. Visit Hyde Park Theater page and Harper Theater RFP page. There was a strong petition to support Music Box Theater's bid to rehab it as a theater, but impracticalities and maybe other issues make this unlikely. Decision is supposed to be announced at the November 11, 2006 TIF meeting.

Should this historic streetscape and mainstreet style be allowed to disappear?

Harper Theater, north of 53rd on Harper, is shuttered. Owner U of C is considering its future. Herald Building, 53rd Harper, is part of the  Harper Theater complex. Some are more concerned with keeping this streetscape facade.


Maybe, Some GOOD News? Meadville and the Woodlawn Houses

Meadville-Lombard, and the two threatened housesIn August, 2002, a community meeting expressed strong opposition to Meadville-Lombard Seminary's plan to replace two houses on Woodlawn with a new five-story, $7 million classroom, administrative, dormitory structure. Reflecting the University's view, Valerie Jarrett, president of South East Chicago Commission, wrote a public letter asking the Seminary to consider incorporating the two houses into its plan and buying other property. She offered assistance in finding a solution.

Meadville-Lombard Seminary hired the firm of Vinci-Hamp to evaluate how to incorporate the two threatened Woodlawn Avenue Wolff and Wiles houses into plans for seminary expansion south of 57th Street The Vinci-Hamp proposal would reuse the Wiles home for student housing and gut the Wolff home for a library. Two houses across the street would also be adapted for the Seminary, Fleck House, which the Seminary owns, at 5700 Woodlawn, and Fenn House, not owned by Meadville at 5738. It actually gives 10,000 additional square feet. The Meadville Board rejected this plan in November, 2002. In part, the Board felt that it preserved too little (being basically facadectomy) while crimping the Seminary's needs. "Are we really preserving anything?", one board member was reported to say. Also, Meadville would have to raise funds to buy the Fenn house. Although rejecting the Vinci plan, the board voted to postpone action and seek other alternatives that meet the needs of both the Seminary and the community. The school also will not seek renewal of its demolition permit. President Murry estimated that it is likely the houses will be retained in the project, which will not be going forward at present for lack of funds, and that he will explore buying nearby property. Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois president and Hyde Parker David Bahlman said the houses are important--"This block can't afford to lose any more teeth, as it were." (See his earlier letter, below.) Linda Thisted, part of the Hyde Park Kenwood Preservation Coalition, working to save the homes, is cautiously hopeful. Preservationists feel there is a serious problem with institutional expansion in the area, and throughout the neighborhood. Some propose an historic district. Note, in a November discussion with new president Barker, a member of the HPHS Preservation Committee determined the Seminary has not made a complete determination at this point that it will eschew demolition as an alternative. However, the administration is sensitive to the issues a concerns.

David Bahlman, President, Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois and Hyde Parker wrote:

July 23, 2002
To LPCI Hyde Park/Kenwood Members:

As you know, the houses at 5707 and 5711 South Woodlawn Avenue are on LPCI's Chicagoland Watchlist, and they are now scheduled for demolition by the Meadville Lombard Theological School .Please join me on Monday evening, July 29th at 7:00 p.m. at the Meadville Theological School at 5701 South Woodlawn, (the entrance is on 57th Street) to express our opposition to demolition, and to plead for an alternative preservation scheme. This is a community hearing scheduled by the Theological School.

Your presence is critical! Nothing speaks more strongly in these case than local neighborhood opinion.

With my appreciation. David Bahlman

Wolf and Wiles Residences
5707 and 5711 S. Woodlawn Ave., Chicago. Built 1909 and 1901: W. Carbys Zimmerman and Dwight Perkins, architects, respectfully CHRS (YL and OR-rated); ISS

These two Hyde Park residences are threatened by the proposed expansion of the Meadville Unitarian Seminary, immediately to the north. The buildings are part of a cohesive residential streetscape facing the campus of the University of Chicago. (At the opposite end of the street is Frank Lloyd Wright's famed Robie House.) The Classical Revival-style residence at 5707 was designed by a well-known architect of Chicago Park District facilities. The early modern-style house at 5711 is by an architect best known for his school designs, including Schurz High School, a Chicago Landmark.


Historic issues frequently arise in parks, especially Jackson, South Shore Cultural Center, Promontory Point, and Washington Parks in our area. The Olmsted parks are in themselves historic (some and some features in them landmarked). Often these parks face issues with institutional expansion and sequestering the use and space of historic buildings in the parks—many of these museums and institutions being historic and/or in, sharing structures whose history goes back well beyond the founding of the institution or museum. Also, changes, such as the rehabilitation and move of the MSI U-505 submarine to a permanent new indoor structure northeast of the museum, or DuSable's reuse of the Burnham-designed roundhouse stables, have impacts on other historic parts of their park and access to them. A majority of our other parks, even those less than a generation old, have also become vested with historic character and meaning.

Promontory Point, built into the lake at 54-56th Street in the 1920's and 1930's, landscaped by Alfred Caldwell, given a distinctive castle-like fieldhouse, and enjoyed by generations (who also protested the two decade presence of a Nike missile base), was nominated to the Chicago Commission on Landmarks in December, 2002, through the offices of Frank Heitzman and others. See Point News home and Latest for navigation and discussions.

Hyde Park Historical Society adopted the Point and served as the fiscal agent for the Driehaus Foundation grant, which was the seed funding for the Galvin and Heitzman-Tjaden/Shabica studies. (Ultimately c. $50,000+ was raised.) With Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois and Friends of the Parks, HPHS requested a state historical review of the site and project in view of projected federal expenditures. In May 2003 the Agency denied the city right to go forward with the concrete proposal without giving justification. LPCI placed the Point on its 10 most endangered in Illinois list. The arduous process of Chicago landmarking has begun, even though the application has been set aside pending attempt at plan resolution (and perhaps to see how much will still merit designation- remember Navy Pier and Soldier Field).


Jackson Park

Visit Historic Jackson Park.

A Boardwalk that might have damaged the wildlife and historic Olmsted character of the southeast lobe of Jackson Park's lagoons was successfully modified into a less damaging path that will afford universal and educational access in the natural area. Preservationists including Hyde Park Historical Society weighed in on this, along with the Jackson Park Council, Alderman Hairston, and the birding-naturalist community.

Jackson Park's The Republic (Golden Lady) at Hayes (63rd and Richards) was nominated December 5 and given final recommendation April 3 as a Chicago Landmark, with no opposition, by the Chicago Landmark Commission. Jackson Park Advisory Council, which endorsed the nomination, has in the HPKCC office a copy of the fine document presented to the Commission in support of the nomination. Nomination brings "preliminary protection" status. The recommendation was given final City Council approval June 5, 2003. JPAC would like to see the Republic given state and federal status. The Daniel Chester French and Henry Bacon masterpiece, a gilded bronze 24 foot high 1/3 1918 replica of the gilded-plaster centerpiece at the World's Columbian Exposition. It was beautifully restored a few years back by the Park District's restorer Andrzej Dajnowski. Visit The Republic landmarked for in-depth discussion and pictures.

63rd St Beach House received designation in late 2004. See 63rd Bathing Pavilion history, discussion, photo gallery page.. In 2004, Alderman Hairston nominated the 1919 Mediterranean Revival Bathing Pavilion at Jackson Park (as it was called in the opening ceremony notice, a.k.a. 63rd Street Bathing Pavilion) for City of Chicago Landmarks Designation. The Department of Planning and Development researched the matter in accord with the criteria in the Landmarks Ordinance and presented a recommendation of support, with documentation, to the Commission on Chicago Landmarks. The Commission granted preliminary recommendation in late May. The matter takes several months, during which the owner (Chicago Park District) and interested parties are consulted and further research conducted, including on impacts and exactly what features are to be protected, in this case the building. During this process, any change or permit request proposed by the owner requires special reviews and a 90-day delay. If the Commission makes a final recommendation for designation, the matter is introduced in City Council, reviewed by the Landmarks Committee, then voted on by the full Council. At its June meeting, JPAC resolved its approval of landmark designation for the beachhouse.

The 63rd facility (often mistakenly called "64th" or even "65th") was a strong expression of Mediterranean Revival shore resort architecture as well as the other grand park facilities designed by Burnham and those inspired by the Prairie School. It was built as swimming, rather than just visiting, beaches became very popular. The facility, but not the part of the beach laying northwest, was off-limits to African Americans. In the second half of the century the facility was neglected and much of it used for storage. JPAC president Eric Hatchett worked tirelessly in the neighborhoods and media to have it restored. The restored facility was rededicated in 1999, It incorporated an interactive spray fountain and serenity garden largely paid for by the legacy of the Max Schiff family. Completion of the new nearby underpass should increase access, especially if overflow drivers use the rebuilt lot west of the Drive north of Hayes.

The facility is highly popular and continues to see steadily increasing use. Some issues are leaks, elimination of the faulty bus turnaround, of course pollution leading to swimming bans, realization of a drumming circle to the east, and a way to honor Mr. Hatchett's advocacy for the facility.

Jackson Park's granite-paver strolling beach north of 63rd St. beach, a remnant from the 1880's, is being restored as a last part of Lake Shore Drive rehab and bike path upgrade. Hyde Park Historical Society, HPKCC, Jackson Park Council, UC and many other organizations and esp. Alderman Hairston insisted on a sensitive restoration. Work including a c. 130 extension to the south, should be done by late spring 2005. The advisory council still hopes for historic signage. See a letter in the 63rd Beach House page on segregation times at the granite beach.

The 'Iowa' building in Jackson Park, a WPA historic descendant of pre-Fair and World's Columbian Exposition structures at 56th and South Shore Drive, could some day become home to a permanent exhibit of fragments of the Exposition's Germania monument--the only remaining statue from the WCE--and may be on the way to restoration and reuse as a concession. The current project would include a historic marker, similar to the case of the granite promenade (above). JPAC endorsed the current project and a feasibility study of complete 'Iowa' restoration, at its March meeting. A full description is up in the Iowa page. See also Stephen Treffman's article in Hyde Park History-in the HPHS site. The fragments were found in LSD work where they were knocked over presumably for construction of the Animal Bridge c. 1904, (face, drapery, and housing decoration) and their pedestals.

The U 505 Submarine (a national landmark) was restored and moved to a new home north of the Museum, with exhibit to reopen in the spring of 2005.
See Sub move.

The Raven Viking ship that was sailed to the Columbian Exposition is in sad shape in Geneva, IL, but there is discussion about raising the sizable sum to restore it, provided the right housing and exhibit space can be found first (Museum of Science and Industry says "no", Jackson Park Advisory Council says that is unacceptable.) Cook County Commissioner Carl Hansen is one of the concerned principals. The ship and its story was featured in a Herald article by Peter Nepstad in March, 2003 under the auspices of the Hyde Park Historical Society. Organizations, including Norwegian descended leagues, are raising funds and expect to make an announcement soon. Park District spokespersons say money has been raised to get and move the ship. But the Museum of Science and Industry is not interested.


Washington Park

Much has been lost in this park, but much remains and it being brought back to life, from the Fountain of Time and lagoons to the Refectory, DuSable (once park administration), Stables... or memory recovered (George Washington statue, possibly to be juxtaposed with one of Harold Washington). Some attempts to bring back a past era, such as the lawn bowling green, went amiss. July, 2003's savage storm hit just as an arboreal inventory was being started by the Morton Arboretum.

Lorado Taft's elegant and massive Fountain of Time, west of Midway Plaisance, has been restored under the direction of Andrzej Dajnowski and has been rededicated. Funding has been found to seal and restore the pool. See photos in Washington Park. Hyde Parkers have extensively researched Taft and the Fountain; there is even an unreleased documentary film about it. Those who would like to work together to raise more money can contact Melissa Cook. Learn about the fundraising work of this Fountain of Time Basin Committee. Under construction just east of the Fountain is the Alison Davis Garden (see in Washington Park homepage) which honors much history. .

Also in Washington Park, the Daniel Burnham-designed Roundhouse Stables will be adapted to use for exhibits and other needs of the DuSable Museum, under a $10 million state grant and as part of the Museum's $25 million capital campaign. The Museum has also received a MacArthur grant. There has been much competition over who would get this building, but this use was envisioned in the recently approved Framework Plan. One hopes care will be taken, especially since the south addition to the original historic (Burnham-designed South Parks Board Hqtrs.) building north of 56th Street was highly "contrastive". The museums in the parks all seem to be engaging in institutional encroachment in the parks. However, there will be a compensation in this case--not by the Museum but by the Park District. The non-historic Park District trades operations structures have been taken out and the area is expected to be returned to open park uses. To be watched is a possible future arrangement to build and share an underground parking structure for DuSable and the University of Chicago Hospitals.

DuSable Museum expansion. The southeast corner of the park will be greatly reorganized with expansion of DuSable Museum of African American History into the historic Burnham-firm designed stables roundhouse. (The stables served the original Washington Park Race Track, which left when a mayor had the area voted dry about a century ago. DuSable certainly needs the room. The DuSable, now in a $25 million capital and endowment campaign, received $10 million from the state at the behest of Senate president Emil Jones. It also received a MacArthur grant.

Museum to grow in 1907. Hyde Park Herald, November 17, 2004. by Mike Stevens

The DuSable Museum of African American History doubled in size Monday--at least theoretically.

The Chicago Park District handed museum officials a set of ceremonial keys to Washington Park's neighboring Roundhouse building Nov. 15, clearing the way for the museum's @25 million renovation of the historic stone building.

A $10 million state grant championed by state Senate President Emil Jones (D-14) made the expansion possible, DuSable CEO and President Antoinette Wright said. "To our elected officials local, state and federal, we thank you for bringing the bacon home," Wright said to Jones and U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (d-1), who were among nearly 150 people on hand for the formal handoff.

In a bill [passed] by Congress, Rush has earmarked $1 million for a proposed pedestrian skyway over 57th Street that would connect the Roundhouse expansion to the museum's main campus. "I thought about [Jones'] $10 million and my $1 million and the only thing I an think to say is, every little bit helps," Rush said. "This is just a down payment. we intend to get more."

After accepting a teddy bear from DuSable Museum founder Margaret Burroughs, Jones moved quickly to the problem of where to find the $12 million needed to finish the proposed restoration. "We in the state have done our job. All the major corporations that our community supports have got to step up to the plate," Jones said.

After years as a maintenance facility, the 61,000-square-foot park building will allow the museum to host larger traveling shows in addition to exhibiting more of it own collection. As it stands, space constraints relegate up to 70 percent of the museum's collection to storage.

On top of exhibition space, the Roundhouse will house research facilities and a reading room to expand onsite learning resources, DuSable's Director of Finance and Administration Michael Carter said. "[Today] if you came here an asked about Frederick Douglass we can tell you, but we can't show you," Carter said.

The former stable will also house a lunch room which officials hoop will boost attendance because schools will no longer be forced to hustle students back to campus for their lunch hour. Wright anticipated the expansion will boost annual attendance by 60,000 visitors, which would push the attendance figures to well over 200,000 visitors a year.

Renovations are slated to begin spring 2005 with an eye to an 2007 opening. Fundraising will also go toward a $5 million endowment.


South Shore Cultural Center was nominated by the commission. The Park District in February asked for 120 days to consider. In April, 2004, Parks General Superintendent Timothy Mitchell signed off on the landmark status. City Council granted designation May 26, 2004. Visit South Shore Cultural Center Landmark Criteria page and the South Shore CC History page. This designation is part of a push to protect Park District buildings. Peter Scales of the Landmarks Commission says, "The Park District has some incredible architecture. While they are thought of largely as safe, we certainly want to recognize them and absolutely secure their future."

The decision in the mid 1970s to nix demolition plans for the old country club marked an about face in the way the park district usually handled historic buildings, according to district historian Julia Bachrach. "You could actually point to this as the beginning of the preservation movement in Chicago's parks," Bachrach said before the Council's decision [to grant landmark designation].

The newly-restored 63rd Street bathing pavilion in Jackson park is the next park district building set to be landmarked, Scales said. If successful, the 85-year-0ld beach house will be declared a landmark by next June.


The University of Chicago has perhaps the neighborhood's largest concentration of historic buildings, certainly the largest concentration of related structures consistent in style and scale. (It is not an in an historic district although most is in and forms a planned development district dating from urban renewal days, giving it certain exceptions including to some zoning provisions.) Its upkeep and renovation is enormously expensive- and now it has to preserve character and integrity while complying with an ADA full compliance settlement with the Department of Justice (See in Disabilities page). The University takes good care of this resource and publishes and exhibits much of its own and the community's and south side's history, including at Regenstein Library Special Collections, including jazz and blues archives and archives of community organizations and residents/institutions. The University has also contributed to preservation through:

1) renovations of major campus buildings and quasi-campus buildings--new commitment of $21 to landmarked International House, former McCormick Seminary President Randel says it his goal to double money spent on building upkeep within the next few years. Reactivation of dormitory use for Breckenridge House (Eleanor Club), which is on the National Register.

2) plaque, statuary and other recognition of historic sites in its domain (most dramatically Henry Moore's Atomic Energy). See below Rockefeller Chapel, up for landmark designation.

3) strategic purchase and stabilization of off-campus buildings, adaptive reuse of off-campus sites (recent examples: the Press printing plant at 5012 Cornell, and possibly in the future parts of the Theater building, earlier example : the Windermere); expected costly restoration of the terra cotta and other features of The Shoreland dormitory (former grand dame hotel). The University's rationale and guidelines in its selections of what to purchase elude many.

4) facilitation of the restoration of landmarked Robie House (but not financial contribution to the current restoration), evolving plans to restore and update the landmarked Lorado Taft Midway Studios as centerpiece of a new arts and performing center. Also, through indirect facilitation and a public letter by its outreach organization SECC, the University may have persuaded Meadville to save the Woodlawn house streetscape.

5) enhancement and creation of gardens and landscaping on campus (which is designated a botanic garden) and off-site and in historic parks--Washington and Midway, including major contribution to park framework plans.

6) awards

U of C was in 2003 recognized by the Building Industry Council of the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois for its "longstanding stewardship of a remarkable architectural heritage." Cited, according to LPCI president and Hyde Parker David Bahlman, were the University's restoration of major historic structures, including Ida Noyes, Bartlett, Rockefeller, its commitment to preserving International House, and new projects [some of which may become future landmarks?]. Bahlman said that recognition of excellence in good work and commitment furthers LPCI's advocacy mission.

The Gerald Ratner Athletic Center was awarded a citation of honor by the American Council of Engineering Companies (AISC), the American Institute of Steel Construction and the Consulting Engineers Council of Illinois. Designer: Cesar Pelli & Associates and local partner OWP/P. (Pelli designed the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.) The serpentine counter-curved multi-sectional yet unified structure is most notable for its tilted sets of white, concrete-filled masts and cables running from the base to far above the roof. University Architect Curt Heuring says the masts and cables are the support for the s-shaped roof in a unique, forward-looking solution to providing large, column-free spaces in the gym and pool. The AISC noted, " the three-dimensional configuration of splayed cables at multiple levels make this structure an engineering breakthrough. The structural solution adds a new classification of masted structures in the United States, providing a precedent for future structures with similar goals." The structure also used local supplies and recycled materials wherever possible, including 100 percent recycled steel fabricated at a plant close to Chicago. A future landmark.

At the end of 2004, Midwest Construction awarded the University"Project of the Year" for the Ratner Athletic Center.

Views in Tour part 2.

In addition, the (actually private) Quadrangle Club at 1155 E. 57th, by Howard Van Doren Shaw, is being lovingly restored.

However, the University will save little if any of Doctors Hospital and there is evidence it has played a major role in the probable loss of Harper Court. How much of the Harper Theater will be saved is in doubt.

On the other hand, many believe that new style, non contextual architecture has diminished the historicity and character of the University and surrounding residential areas and is overwhelming or crowding out nearby areas, including through increasing parking and traffic loads and creating pressure for "higher and better" use of institutionalized residences. Others think the University and its Real Estate arm have not taken a strong and proactive enough stand on preservation issues throughout the neighborhood, including on Promontory Point and the Theater and Herald Buildings (the latter is owned by U of C; the University has not made a decision and is honestly exploring preservation prospects.) This writer knows that focus on these problems overlooks much that the University has done behind the scenes and that the University may be prepared to do indirectly, for example on the Point. After all the dispute over attempts to close and, it is said, demolish International House, stabilization was done and in 2003 the University appropriated $21 million for renovation and restoration. The University also sensitively rehabbed McCormick Seminary (see following) and weighed in on preserving the Woodlawn historic house street line.

Also, the University of Chicago recently offered sensitive plans for reuse, under continued nonconforming use, of the present McCormick Seminary building at 56th and Woodlawn. Some neighbors, including preservationist Tod Schwabel, felt the University has reneged on some of its noise and landscaping promises. The University will reconsider (and allow neighbors to sit in on) air conditioning structure plans (buried or enclosed) , but feels it has done as much as it should on landscaping. Schwebel is now apparently satisfied that most of the recommendations he supported have been implemented, according to a meeting December 17, 2003. Restored very well.

The structure was designed as a fraternity house by Howard Van Doren Shaw. The interior was never of historic significance and none of the original except a staircase is left, according expert Todd Schwabel, who was present. Schwabel offered rare praise to the University, which will come back with options for re landscaping, including for the parking lot edge at 56th Street. The new users will be Alumni Association and the UTech scientific patent group, both of which said they will use the building somewhat less intensively than McCormick. The Chicago Department of Planning is taking a close look at allowing the proposed uses of the building, but the proposal is expected to be approved for occupancy fall, 2003, according to source at the Alumni Association. The second community informational meeting was held February 9th, then others including in September, 2003. The parking lot will be shielded and the air conditioning was supposed to be moved to the roof. The University appropriated $2 this year toward the renovation. (The metal-parts ram sculpture has been relocated to a prominent position at the seminary's new quarters at the north of the Lutheran School at 54th Place and University.)


To the Shoreland page. (Grand hotel, become a dorm, to be redeveloped for condos. Some issues have been raised, but exterior and part of the interior will be restored.)


More apartment homes will be lost to Hospital expansion on Drexel 5700 block.

City eyes Rockefeller Chapel for landmarking (done)

Hyde Park Herald, June 16, 2004. By Mike Stevens

The Chicago Landmarks Commission granted preliminary landmarks status June 3 to the University of Chicago's Rockefeller Memorial Chapel. The decision protects the 75-year-old gothic structure while the city studies the impact a landmark designation would have in the community and on the building's owner. Landmarking can take upwards of a year if the owner opposes the designation, Chicago Department of Planning spokesman Pete Scales said.

"It's kind of an iconic building at the University of Chicago. It's certainly one of the best pieces of architecture in Hyde Park and is certainly significant at the citywide level," Scales said.

Landmarking protects buildings from demolition and any changes to "significant historical features" listed in the commission's landmark recommendation to city council. If landmarked, all building permits would be reviewed by the city's Landmark Commission, a fact that sometimes worries property owners.

But the prospect of a landmarked Rockefeller delights the university, said Hank Weber, vice-president of community affairs at the University of Chicago. "Having it recognized along with the other great buildings of Chicago is an honor," Webber said.

The university bas been an excellent steward of what is a "treasure trove" of gothic architecture, said Jonathan Fine of Preservation Chicago. But when large institutions like hospitals and universities expand, they start looking for space wherever they can find it. Landmarking insures historic buildings will not be razed to solve a space shortage, Fine said.

"[It would be] one of the first buildings on the U. of C. campus to be landmarked. We hope that sets a welcome precedent for the future," Fine said.

The city has landmarked two on-campus sites so far: Midway Studios, 6016 S. Ingleside Ave., which sculptor Lorado Taft used as a studio while working on Washington Park's "Fountain of Time" and the site of the first nuclear reaction, 5725 S. Ellis Ave., on which Henry Moore's sculptor "Nuclear Energy" sits.

Architect Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, who was known for gothic Revival churches, based the grey limestone clad building on Medieval English cathedrals, according to the commission's preliminary report. Although the chapel's stone detailing, thick masonry walls and buttresses mark it a Late Gothic Revival style building, modern technologies such as steel beams supporting the roof's concrete slabs allow wider bays and soaring 43-foot tall stained glass windows.

Completed in 1928, the University Chapel was renamed for university benefactor John D. Rockefeller, who founded Standard Oil and was one of the giants of American business at the turn of the century, gave more the than $34 million to the University of Chicago between 1890 and 1910.

After further study and public hearings, the Commission may then recommend to city council that the chapel be landmarked.


Preservation news and opportunities/challenges--from the neighborhood...

What changes can be written into zoning reform and other codes that will encourage preservation, restoration or adaptation of houses, churches and other residential, commercial and institutional structures--as opposed to "teardowns" and "buildouts"? (To learn about a program of tax breaks through facade leaseback or easements for certain buildings contact the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois and the Cook County Assessor's Office (links in Condos and Coops Committee page of hydepark.org hpkcc). Contact also Preservation Chicago and Metropolitan Planning Council.

First Unitarian steeple under removal, 2003. Considered handled sensitively

First Unitarian without the steeple, as originally built.

Does First Unitarian Church seem the same without its steeple? It seems not, maybe even better. This was an interesting test case. In effect, the church had a hardship and was under the gun from the city's stringent new facade repair requirement. Preservationists and historians were convinced the church should be given a pass. However, this is the touchy issue of preservation of sacred spaces. Also, the city had just adopted a 90-day hold- rule for structures on the architectural survey orange list--following failure of the orange list to save the Mercantile Exchange building.

Well, the church's application for a demolition permit for its expensive-to-replace steeple was the first application to trigger that ordinance requiring a 90-day waiting period for demolition permits for historically significant buildings. Scaffolding materials appeared Monday, February 17, and started going up as soon as the city (very quickly) vacated its hold for safety reasons. It is nearly impossible to landmark or intervene in major changes to religious structures in Chicago. Preservation Chicago was especially upset at the quickness with which the hold was vacated.

The board of the Hyde Park Historical Society believes the church has done all it can and the steeple will have to be razed. The steeple was not in the original building designed by Denison B. Hull, c. 1920, but added at behest of the church's first minister. Preservationists worry that a bad precedent was set by the quick setting aside of the waiting period on safety grounds. City spokespersons say the concern is groundless.


Mural on 57th Street

A tough call: which Metra viaduct murals should be saved and how? So far only 56th's is to be (partially) saved. Issues include artists' contractual rights. Time to decide is short, since viaduct work starts in 2004 (along with embankment enhancement), commencing with 53rd Street under Chicago Department of Transportation direction. (Contact Janet Attarian there.)

In September 2006 a heartbreaking "mistake" occurred, destruction by total white-out of the 47th Street viaduct murals, done by artists from around the city and under management of public art groups, especially Higher Gliphs, and in excellent shape and high quality. Details of why and how this happened have not emerged publicly, but Ald. Preckwinkle directly apologized to parties, including out of state, and said she was committed to a restoration or new murals. See some details and the bigger picture in Viaducts-Murals-Lake Park homepage. This includes description of a major streetscape mural plan that could leave us with no murals except on 47th and 56th.

The TIF Landscape Committee February 24, 2004 heard recommendations from the Public Art Group (highly regarded) concerning murals on the viaducts. The recommendations have been accepted by the city. Not without controversy. Three murals were then slated to be restored (but that on 55ht may not be now: "Under city stone" on the north wall of 55th, "Pioneer Social Work" by Hyde Parker Astrid Fuller on the north wall of 57th, and "Spirit of Hyde Park" also by Fuller, on the south wall of 57th. Funds have not been identified. The murals on 47th will be left as are. To be hidden behind panes are "The Wheel of Time" on the north wall of 51st, "The Circle Journey" on the south wall of 53rd, and "Alewives and Mercury Fish" by Albert Zeno on the south wall of 55th.The South East Chicago Commission already funded preservation of two on the south side of 56th each by a noted artist "Where Have You Been, Where Are You Going" on pillars, partly obscured by new construction, and four abstracted women at the east end of that viaduct wall. The Public Art Group said its standard was connection with the community, historic importance, and impact on other muralists. More.

St. Stephens Church

Early 2005 revised front elevation St. Stephens development

St. Stephens Church (below) on Blackstone is to be demolished for condos but the exterior saved. There would be 12, rather than the previously planned 24 units (thought by many neighbors excessive) and keep 25 parking spaces. Prices will be c. $1.4 million each. The historic 1917 facade will be preserved, but some beautiful touches in the interior of this originally Christian Science Renaissance Revival church have been lost. Some also felt and feel that building to the height of the dome is out of character with the block and will stress parking and traffic. A zoning change was shepherded by Alderman Hairston and a group of neighbors. This raises the question of how zoning reform will affect preservation not just of structures but of street character.

Updated: November 19 2008 the facility went into bank foreclosure auction, continually postponed-- bank sees better odds in keeping the developer?

It went bankrupt, the buying bank was closed, in 2015/16 another firm (converting Shiloh, see next) bought the property.

St. Stephen's Church

And the next: Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, 4840 S. Dorchester, was expected to be sold for auction, but December, 2003 was bought by tv chef Art Smith for use as his residence and for social services. Shiloh is landmarked and and on the National Register. This 27,000 square feet church is a magnificent 1904 classical revival Christian Science church designed by Solon S. Beman (neighboring grand Blackstone Branch Library, Fine Arts bldg. downtown, Pullman, Harper houses south of 57th...). Smith is quoted as a great admirer of Beman's work. Adapted for reuse, it also hosted Dr. King, Mahalia Jackson and others and was temporary headquarters to Operation Push. The pastor is Rev. Gordon Humphreys, who says the present congregation has shrunk too much to keep or keep up the building. The auctioning firm was Sheldon Good and Company. The church was recently visited by representatives of the city's Landmarks Commission and Ald. Preckwinkle's office. Neighbors were reported to insist that any use be low-density and have a low impact on parking problems and resources, and are insisted to the alderman that public input meetings be held. Liaison at the 4th Ward office was Mae Wilson.

Smith sold the structure to a developer who has hired the same architect as for St. Stephens, and to demolish it and replace it with a 32 unit development. Neighbors are outraged. See unfolding story in Preservation Hot page.

Former Shiloh Baptist 4840 Dorchester, Solon Beman, was bought in 2003 by Art Smith for use as a  residence and youth center.

Doctors Hospital, Stony at 58th. GONE. Replaced by new lab school. The building was be sold at court-ordered autumn 2006 to the University at 10 million. RFP to developers specified hotel or condo conversion. 5th Ward Alderman Leslie Hairston said that certain proposals would not be entertained, including removal of the front or tearing out the back to put up a high rise. She is well aware of its historical significance as Illinois Central Hospital and architectural significance. She is also aware of traffic and parking problems in the area. Details including historic significance- see in Development. See Doctors Hospital page.


...and from the greater south side and beyond

The challenge to save famed jazz venue Palm Tavern was met with no political backing and failed. Solution (resented by many Bronzevillians) for Checkerboard was to move it to Harper Court.

The Checkerboard Lounge, 423 E 43rd, was a popular and once legendary Bronzeville blues spot. It was driven out by rising rents caused partly by the creation of nouveau-Bronzeville while the real remains of Bronzeville disappeared and by building violations at its old locale. A case could certainly be made for keeping the Checkerboard in Bronzeville, but this could have happened only if 1) organizations seeking to keep the Checkerboard gained real momentum, 2) Alderman Dorothy Tillman timely interceded 3) The University backed this while maybe substituting another blues bar in Harper Court. Meanwhile, The University of Chicago, with special attention from President Randel, offered offered Mr. Thurman (the owner, who is a Hyde Parker) a discounted rent space for the Checkerboard in Harper Court, paying buildout cost. Owner Thurman was amenable, partly because this was a good deal and bird in the hand, much/most of his clientele is Hyde Park and because he would also like to bring in customers from the North Side. He says that regardless he wants to keep the old decor and mood--but would the modernized blues (and now jazz) place be the same? University spokesperson says this is purely a business deal with the sides free to choose. The new Checkerboard opened late in 2006 and has had modest success.

Adaptive rehab of County Hospital seems to be gaining steam but faces long odds.

It's among the chief structures on the endangered list of local preservation organizations and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. An alternative plan has been unveiled. There is support from several commissioners, but not County Board president Stroger or Mayor Daley, and there are some contractual hitches.

Saving the Met

Members of the Metropolitan Community Church, 4100 South King Drive, sued their pastor to save their 114-year-old Bronzeville Richardsonian Romanesque building from demolition. A demolition permit for the historic church was requested (but not granted) last November. The church was the site of A. Philip Randolph's Pullman porter meetings and host to Paul Robeson, Ida B. Wells, Sidney Poitier, and many other African-American notables, as well as Eleanor Roosevelt and rallies over Dilbert Tibbs. The "Coalition to Save the Met" is a group of about 115 preservationists, congregation members, and community members who fought to save the church. A stop-work order was issued in August to keep construction workers from removing stained glass windows, in preparation for demolishing the building. Dr. Rev. Leon D. Finney told the Conference he has money in hand to restore the church and use it for his congregation at the cost of only a few hundred thousand dollars. true to his word, Finney bought the building in June, 2003.

In November, the Chicago Landmarks Commission was asked but declined to act on the Preservation Illinois (Landmark Preservation Council of Illinois) proposal to give interim protection to allow time. (The ordinance does not allow religious structures to be landmarked without consent of the owner.)

Similar problems of inability to pay for drastically needed repairs and making old religious structures useful to their congregations and neighborhoods are widespread--Quinn Chapel (on the National Trust's endangered list), 24th and Wabash, is a prime example. Not all significant structures can have the success of Holy Family.

And here's another, St. Gelasius, 6415 S. Woodlawn. (Was St. Clara, an important parish; renamed in a consolidation of parishes c. 1990) Henry H. Schlacks (Wright disciple), c. 1923, Renaissance Revival. Designation Orange ("Value to the Community"). The city has granted the Archdiocese request for demolition, which permit entered the "orange" category's 90 day delay period. The Landmarks Commission, accepting arguments that the structure is no longer used as a house of worship, voted preliminary recommendation October 24 and on November 6 voted to block the demolition permit and recommend landmark designation to City Council. Costs are too high and membership too small, says the Archdiocese, which closed the church in June. There is a "Woodlawn Coalition to Save St. Gelasius" led by Todd Martin, who wants it reused as a community center and says he has two investors. Adjacent First Presbyterian is interested in the property or in brokering a (city?) land swap with the Archdiocese. Alderman Troutman, Preservation Chicago, LPCI, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation are involved in the fight, the Alderman vowing to stand in front of bulldozers. In early August, permits were in the 90-day hold period. Coverage with details. See also latest in Historic Preservation- News and Bulletins. Note: almost all the shuttered and demolished churches have been devoid of "ceremonies" for a period before demolition. Too bad this loophole, if it withstands legal challenge, wasn't discovered earlier. Rec'd by the Commission, next steps are hearing of City Council committee Jan. 12, lawsuit by the Archdiocese. Saved- a missionary order now uses and is restoring it.

and the next? Corpus Christi Church, 4920 King Dr. A preservation caught the church twin Renaissance towers in demolition without the proper permits. The church and archdiocese say they intend to restore the towers at more than a million dollars. The project is on hold for now, and the archdiocese will have to pay fines and more for its permits. Many remain suspicious of the archdiocese's intend after the second non-permitted demolition in less than two months.

Preservation Groups, incl. Hyde Parkers, are working to save Rosenwald Apartments (Michigan Avenue Garden Apartments).

Michigan Ave Apts Located at 4600 S. Michigan, the Michigan Avenue Garden Apartments was built in 1929 by philanthropist and Sears executive Julius Rosenwald as a demonstration of safe, affordable and also profitable mixed income housing in then-segregated Bronzeville, indeed African American communities in general. It w not for its first two decades inhabited by those most in need of affordable housing since good housing was so scarce in the area and middle class and wealthy persons (perforce but for other reasons also) stayed in Bronzeville during the era of restrictive covenants). The tenants demanded good upkeep and service for their rent. About 1950 the area changed further and the Rosenwald entered decline.

Bobbie Johnson of Bronzeville has identified funding streams for rehab, but the building faced a demolition court date and its preservation has been opposed by Alderman Dorothy Tillman. Johnson has help from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Preservation Chicago and she wants to restore the original use as affordable housing (but see below) as well as honor important history and memories of the South Side. Preservation Chicago head Jonathan Fine said the Department of Planning could and should find a way to save the building and is responsible if it fails to do so.

In early June, 2003 it was reported that Evanston-based AMA Realty bought the building for $4.9 million at the foreclosure sale and plans to rehab the building for condos and retail (although this will be difficult in a 5-flat walkup with no air conditioning. We do not know if the alderman has changed her stance.The Rosenwald has now been placed on the National Trust of Historic Preservation's 2003 "11 Most Endangered Historic Sites."

Fundraising continues for restoration of Hotel Sutherland and its ballroom.
The Sutherland

The Sutherland, 4657 South Drexel, was a major music venue of Bronzeville. The story of Malachi Thompson, who has been seeking to restore it and was one of the Paris expatriates of jazz and blues, has been told in a play performed at Victory Gardens Theater a few years ago. After World War II, it was a favorite spot for returning veterans and featured internationally

known musicians into the 1960's. It's been a long effort, including concerts held at the Museum of Science and Industry organized in part by former HPKCC board member Bill Gerstein. Hyde Parkers Teri Day and Jimmy Ellis, jazzman, are also involved. The struggle over control of the Empowerment Zone grant for restoration seems even longer. But fundraising is now in high gear and included a recent party at the ballroom. Casey Lewis of Century Place Development has owned the venue since 1988. Social services will be provided, not just music, at the Sutherland, now adapted as a seniors affordable building. Now an artist residing in the Empowerment Zone is being sought to run art and cultural training programs. This is an example of creative involvement of communities in projects that preserve and enhance both their built and social environment. To learn more, call Casey Lewis at 312 660-1386. Contact also Bronzeville-Black Metropolis. Site: www.heartlandalliance.org/whatsnew.asp

A plan to restore and reuse the classic bank building at 67th and Stony Island as part of an recreational entertainment (pool, bowling etc.) and retail/office complex gained general ascent at Alderman Hairston's March ward meeting. Nothing so far. Another historic bank, Drexel, at 47th and Cottage Grove, was restored and adapted by its new owners, including for bank expansion.


Piccolo Mondo vets to [restore,] run Woodlawn ballroom, an early public event to be Hyde Park Art Center annual benefit April 30. Finished, very lovely

Several Hyde Park Historical Society members, as well as the reporter of the article below, took advantage of an invitation to tour the Grand Ballroom at 63rd and Cottage Grove as restoration nears completion.

Hyde Park Herald, January 19, 2005. By Mike Stevens

Two local restaurateurs have finally found a space to start cooking again after almost two years of looking for a new Hyde Park location. The catch? It is four blocks south of the Midway in Woodlawn.

"I wanted to stay in Hyde Park because I am a Hyde Parker," said Piccolo Mondo's former manager Norberto Zas. "[But] when I saw this space, I felt the way I did when I saw my wife for the first time."

"The space" is the historic Grand Ballroom, 6349 S. Cottage Grove Ave., which has been shuttered for almost a decade. Depending upon renovations and permits, Zas and fellow Piccolo Mondo-veteran Dominic Gervasio could begin to book, cater ad manage the 13,000-square-foot, second-four banquet space as early as April.

Three years after buying the property for $280,000, current owner Andy Schcolnik and a crew of 45 workers raced last week to finish enough of the $1 million plus renovation to be able to host the annual fund-raiser for his children's school, the Near North Montessori School. "This is the first time t[the fund-raiser] is coming south," Schcolnik said. "It's a big deal for North Siders to come down here."

The ballroom's 60-foot-long, art-deco bar and unhung chandeliers collected dust last Thursday as work crews hung drywall on the 20-foot-tall ceilings and artisans remolded water-damaged decorative plaster in the gilt stairwell entrance. In the afternoon, a sea container from Argentina was scheduled to arrive filled custom-made ceramic friezes of angelic-cherubs meant to replace missing parts of the building's exterior. The 26,000-square-foot building includes six ground-floor retail spots, most of which, Schcolnik said, already have potential leasors.

Lingering city concerns over a lack of parking look to be fading, Schcolnik said, after a meeting with Ald. Arenda Troutman (20th). Schcolnik hopes to buy city property nearby with Troutman's assistance. "I need parking like I need air and water," Schcolnik said.

When the building was finished in 1923, the intersection at 63rd Street and Cottage Grove Avenue boasted one of the city's largest commercial and entertainment districts outside of the Loop. The Grand Ballroom, then known as the Cinderella Chop Suey Restaurant and Dance Hall, sat within sight of t he Tivoli Theater, a 3,400 seat motion picture palace, and the Trianon Ballroom.

"At one time that was the swinging place," Hyde Park Historical Society member Jay Mulberry said. "There were a dozen places that you could go and hear jaz. There were hotels. It was a wonderful area."

Schcolnik, who owns the adjacent Strand Hotel and a few additional properties nearby, is aiming for a revival. The Argentinean developer plans to convert the 90-year-old hotel into city-subsidized artists' lofts. "Our goal is for this block to look like those photographs... from the 1020s," Schcolnik said. "I'm putting my eggs in this basket. Woodlawn has to become what it was."