LITTLE VILLAGE — The Little Village Arch, a gateway into the predominantly Latino Southwest Side neighborhood, has received a preliminary landmark designation — the first time an architect of Mexican descent has had a structure get landmark status in Chicago.
The Commission on Chicago Landmarks on Thursday unanimously approved preliminary landmark status for architect Adrian Lozano’s arch, 3100 W. 26th St., which welcomes residents and visitors to the neighborhood that is often referred to as the “Mexican capital of the Midwest.”
The arch also becomes the first iconic symbol of the Latino community in Chicago to be landmarked, Department of Planning and Development officials said.
Ald. George Cardenas (12th) and the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), which is responsible for maintaining the arch, both supported the landmarking status. Cardenas said it was a significant moment for the Little Village community.
“This shines a light on our community in so many ways. The vibrancy of our community and what it means to us … the Mexican community,” Cardenas said.
Commissioner Tiara Hughes said she was shocked this was the first time a Mexican architect’s work was coming before the landmarks board.
“This is 2021,” Hughes said. “We obviously have a long way to go in our city in becoming more equitable at landmarking and preservation — and it starts today.”
“I’m overly in support of this and hope there are more projects of this nature to come,” Hughes added. “I’m excited that we are moving beyond buildings. We are stepping into the realm of landmarking cultural components of people’s communities that really represent and reflect them.”
Cardenas said he isn’t satisfied with the current maintenance of the arch and hopes landmark status will help identify options for a nonprofit or the city to maintain the “symbol of the community” over time. Cardenas said he is working with CDOT to assess needed work and potential funding.
“Right now the arch is in need of some love,” Cardenas said. “I’m excited. I’m glad it’s finally getting done and [getting] the recognition it deserves.”
The idea for the gateway came in 1987 to celebrate the growing Mexican population in the neighborhood, according to city records. Then-Ald. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia said the arch should be modeled after Mexican architecture.
Built in 1990 by Lozano, the two-story structure features a tiled archway with two dome towers and a metal banner reading, “Bienvenidos A Little Village,” or, “Welcome to Little Village.”
Lozano — who was born in Aguascalientes, Mexico, and moved to Chicago as a child — also contributed to the National Museum of Mexican Art and Benito Juarez Community Academy.
After the arch was built, former Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari visited Chicago in 1991 and spoke at a rally of about 2,000 Little Village residents. The president donated a bronze clock from Relojes Centenario in Mexico that was installed on the arch, according to city records.
The Little Village Arch also ushers neighbors and visitors through the commercial corridor known as the second-highest revenue generator in the city after the Magnificent Mile.
Subscribe to Block Club Chicago, an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.
Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast” here: