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A major historic district for Hyde Park?

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!

Poll question on landmark districting--see in History and Preservation home and respond.
Hyde Park gets first landmark district, 5200 Greenwood Row Houses--see in Preservation Beat.
See Landmarks Criteria and Landmark Districts FAQ for steps in a getting a Chicago or National Register designation for a district...............................
Hyde Park has the largest concentration of Orange-Surveyed structures not having a landmark district.

Note: July 2006: the plan was on hold until the new president of the University could be consulted. The University was consulting as lead with neighboring institutions so all would be on the same page if this is to go forward. The University was reportedly willing to allow designation to houses on Woodlawn but not or certain ones only on University.
This all died. Preservationists, taking a lead from Landmarks Commission staff and what is widely viewed as the historic desecration of the Chicago Theological Seminary buildings, a project is now underway to study and document Woodlawn and University avenues (and the connector streets) between 55th and 59th Streets. SPAF is underwriting the project.
The Suggestion to create the Woodlawn Historic District was submitted to the Commission June 2, 2011.

Another likely blow to landmarking: October 27, 2010, one of the major University-Woodlawn strip historic (but unprotected) structures, 5727 S. University ("William Hale House," Hugh Garden, 1897), was severly damaged by an upper story fire related to its remodeling and expansion by the University into an endowed economics-math study center. The flames were fanned by high winds. The course of action is unclear. Preservationists believe the stucture is lynchpin to what they see as a historic landmarked district. Ironically, it orginally stood where CTS is now and among changes during its move in the 1920s was that it was rotated so the front is now the north side.

Possible impact of the Chicago Theological Seminary on a possible landmark district - see in its own page.

Neighbors Meetings started in July, 2005, continuing Nov. 16. The last will be held the 2nd week in January and will be followed by assessment of steps and possibly a larger public meeting. It looks like it's coming (or at least starting) this time, with a push for meetings from Ald. Hairston and acquiescence of the University. The residents will truly be allowed to decide. Meetings saw lots of questions and frank answers by dep. cmr. Brian Goeken. Likely boundary would be University Ave. 55th to 58th (?) to Metra and 55th to 59th. A neighbors meeting was held November 16th on historic districting and how this might be applied in south Hyde Park (east of the University). Detailed questions were asked and answered by Brian Goeken of the Landmarks Commission. Neither great enthusiasm nor opposition was detected by this observer- but on evaluations turned in almost everyone supported the districting. Evaluations as well as a report on questions will be given to Ald. Hairston.

After a February 1 2005 meeting with Alderman Leslie Hairston to discuss the possibility of a landmark district in Hyde Park (attended by committee members Cal Audrain, Erin Mihelich, Dev Bowly and Jack Spicer), on March 16 the committee (reps. Anne Stephenson and Beth Johnson) met with the Alderman and Hank Webber, VP for Community Affairs at the University of Chicago. It was agreed that the Alderman (who later toned down status as convener) and the Historical Society would sponsor a series of small, informal meetings with home owners. The meetings would be conducted by Landmarks Commission staff and would answer question such as -- "What is a landmark district?" "How does it work?" "What about new windows?" "how sympathetic is the commission to requests for changes?"

August 13 the first meeting was held, for 25 residents of the 5500 blocks of University and Woodlawn Avenues. Brian Goeken presented for the Commission on Chicago Landmarks and Dept. of Planning, Sue Purrington represented Ald. Hairston, and Laura Gruen the University, whose Alumni House would be in the district. Goeken answered general questions and reassured about the sympathetic approach of the Commission to residents' needs.

Meanwhile, residents of Maher houses on Cornell and Hyde Park 5500 blocks are assessing owners of similar houses concerning a small district and may be calling a small meeting. Erin Mihelich, one of the owners, is pursuing this question.

 

"Creating a Hyde Park landmark district has been talked about for almost three decades to no avail...Nearly 220 survey-rated buildings sit in a proposed Hyde Park landmark district outlined for the Chicago Landmarks Commission in 1986." Hyde Park Herald, 10/27/04, Quoted in the Winter 2005 Conference Reporter

More than once in the past, most notably 1986, a city landmark district has been proposed for the part of Hyde Park east of the University, excluding urban renewal and other structures built since the city cutoff date of 1940. Major parts of both South and North Kenwood have landmarked districts, the former a contiguous area and the later scatter-skip. In addition, the Greenwood Row Houses in the 5200 block of Greenwood is well along in the process of being made a district. Parts of Hyde Park being considered, and more, are in a National Register district (which imposes guidelines, but not the controls especially for exteriors of a city district. See Landmarks Criteria for city definitions, criteria, guidelines, and financial consequences discussion, also other kinds of rebate and incentive programs from federal, state, and local government.

The 1986 effort was serious but reputedly squashed by the University. Members of the Preservation Committee of the Hyde Park Historical Society in late 2004 started a push for at least public conversation on the matter. The Historical Society, the Conference, South East Chicago Commission and the University have not taken official positions on the matter, although Hank Webber, VP for Community Affairs, is reported as taking the position that this may well be a good thing for neighbors, if they want it, but not for the main campus. (Institutions get no advantages or rebates.) Most recognize that there are advantages and disadvantages to both property owners and the community. The main argument for raising the issue now, advocates say, is to control pressure towards institutional creep, buildouts and remodeling out of block character (see History/Preservation in Depth- Meadville discussion) and teardowns (see Preservation Hot- although the latter is unlikely to be important in the area south of 55th and west of the tracks, though of buildout and insensitive remodeling have been seen.

The possibility of a district also grew out of renewed activity taking inventory of historic resources in the area and concern with updating the city's historic buildings survey (which has 220+ high-priority sites listed for the area--see Preservation Beat for evaluation of the citywide results and commitment to preservation) and with making sure mapping under the new zoning ordinance respects preservation. Pro districting persons have briefly consulted on the matter with university officials. Two University owned structures are in the 1986 district- Alumni House (formerly McCormick) at 56th and Woodlawn and Lillie House (Lab Schools) Kenwood south of 58th. The former would be in the proposed district, Lillie remains controversial but probably would not be.

Rough boundaries in 1986 (not noting excluded buildings inside) are University, 55th at two points but dipping generally to 56th but at points to 57th, the west side of Harper south to 57th, thence the Metra tracks to 59th, north on Blackstone including west of there only the Cloisters block and Lillie House south of 58th. Excluded are Chicago Theological Seminary, Quadrangle Club, and University Church as well as structures under 40 years and certain "unqualified's". Whereas the S. Kenwood District preserves a distinctive and historic district of similar structures, the proposed district showcases Hyde Park's treasury of prime examples of nearly every type of historic (and modern) structure built in Chicago. Like the Kenwood District, it was largely spared the Urban Renewal of the 1950s and 60s. Top

Hyde Park landmarked? Preservationists and residents resuscitate proposal to landmark area near the U. of C.

Hyde Park Herald, October 27, 2004. by Mike Stevens

"The proposed Hyde Park district is the largest concentration of significant architecture in Chicago that is currently not a landmarked district," Devereux Bowly

One possibility would be to target particular blocks that have a cohesive architectural feel, similar to the proposed landmark district on the west side of the 5200 block of South Greenwood Avenue, [Irene] Sherr said.

Even with strong support from the alderman and the community, the research, documentation and procedural process of landmarking takes years.

After it was over they had looked at upwards of half-a-million buildings--17,373 properties made the cut. Teams of art historians, architects and historic preservationists stuffed in Chevettes and later Ford Taurus station wagons did the grunt work. They combed Chicago's streets ward by ward looking for the best architecture built before 1940.

The Chicago Historic Resources Survey, which began in 1983 and wrapped up in 1995, continues to set the agenda and serve as a primary resource for the Chicago Landmarks Commission, Planning Department spokesman Pete Scales said.

Nearly 220 survey-rated buildings sit in a proposed Hyde Park landmark district outlined for the Chicago Landmarks Commission in 1986.

Fearing demolitions or hasty alterations out of character with the neighborhood, Hyde Park preservationists and some residents in the proposed district have begun quietly resuscitating the long dormant proposal.

"The proposed Hyde Park district is the largest concentration of significant architecture in Chicago that is currently not a landmarked district," Hyde Park Historical Society member Devereux Bowly said. "It's overdue."

Creating a Hyde Park landmark district has been talked about for almost three decades to no avail. Bowly blames this in par on the University of Chicago being cool to the idea when approached by city officials in the past.

As of now, the University does not have an opinion one way or the other, Community Affairs Vice President Hank Webber said. Webber said he did not know the university's attitudes towards landmarking before his arrival in 1997. "This is very early..we'd certainly want to learn a whole lot more about it," Webber said." I view this predominately as a community issue."

The proposed district sits east of the University of Chicago's main campus (see map) and is roughly bordered on the north and south by 55th and 59th Streets and University and Harper Avenues to the east and west. The district's irregular borders exclude less architecturally significant buildings and all but one university building {2? see above].

Landmarking protects historic buildings from demolition and also traditionally boosts property values, according to Chicago Landmarks commission officials. One of the biggest perks is an eight-year property tax freeze that home-owners can take advantage of if they do a major rehab on their property, said long-time Hyde Park realtor Winston Kennedy.

The drawback Kennedy said, is that all permits for that rehab--and any other exterior work--need an approval from the landmarks commission. Landmarking also restricts the real estate market to people willing to abide by the rules, i.e. no tear downs or additions that alter the character of a building

"It's a mixed bag in genera," Kennedy said. "It comes down to your philosophy. If you ar a person who feels property right are sacred you wouldn't like the idea; but if you want a broader community approach and recognize the historic nature of the community, then this is a tool that helps preserve [that]."

A lot of questions remain, including the size of the proposed district, Irene Sherr said. Sherr consults on neighborhood development and was the 4ht Ward office's coordinator of planning and development.

Unlike the Kenwood landmark district to the north, the proposed Hyde Park district contains a wide range of buildings, Sherr said. One possibility would be to target particular blocks that have a cohesive architectural feel, similar to the proposed landmark district on the west side of the 5200 block of South Greenwood Avenue, Sherr said.

No matter what the size, people need to work with the alderman because ultimately they will need the local alderman's support, Sherr said.

Members of the historical society's Preservation Committee hope to meet with 5th Ward Ald. Leslie Hairston as well as landmarks commission officials soon to discuss the proposed district.

With support from both, the committee would like to host an informational meeting for a particular block. Further block meetings could also serve to gauge community support of a landmark district, historical society member Jack Spicer said. "People really have a lot of questions that they need answered before they can make their mind up, and that takes time to get right," Spicer said.

Even with strong support from the alderman and the community, the research, documentation and procedural process of landmarking takes years. "You have to start somewhere," said.

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