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Here Are Chicago’s 7 Most Endangered Buildings And Destinations

Preservation Chicago's 2023 list of endangered buildings includes the Century and Consumer Buildings, Taft Hall and Jeffery Theater Building and Spencer Arms Hotel.

The Damen Silos, 2860 S. Damen Ave. in Lower West Side, is part of the Preservation Chicago's 2023 Chicago 7 Most Endangered. The building is seen on March 7, 2023.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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DOWNTOWN — Downtown high rises, an old hotel, a university hall and South Side industrial buildings are on this year’s list of the most endangered sites in Chicago.

Preservation Chicago has released its annual most endangered buildings list, which includes seven places across the city. The list debuted in 2003 and is updated yearly, showing which of Chicago’s buildings and infrastructure are most threatened by neglect or redevelopment.

This year includes a repeat entry from last year along with buildings spread southwest and north of Downtown.

“Despite seemingly impossible odds, the public interest generated by the Chicago 7, coupled with devoted advocacy, has resulted in a remarkable number of preservation victories over the 20 years,” Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago, said in a statement.

This year’s list:

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
The Century and Consumers Buildings, 202 and 220 S. State St. in the Loop.

The Century and Consumers Buildings

The Century and the Consumers buildings, at 202 and 220 N. State St., are making their fourth appearances on the list. Built in 1915 and 1913, respectively, the buildings suffer from deferred maintenance and vacancy, according to Preservation Chicago.

The federal government took ownership of the buildings through eminent domain in 2005 to shore up security near Federal Plaza. A federal infrastructure bill earmarked funds last February for the buildings’ demolitions, according to Preservation Chicago.

The preservation group has called for the buildings to be reused, and it has pitched having the buildings house a project called the Chicago Archives Center. There are solutions that satisfy the government’s security needs while restoring the century-old high-rises, according to Preservation Chicago.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
The terra cotta ornamentation is charred as Chicago Fire Department battles a 3-11 fire at 5000 N. Clark St. in Andersonville on the early morning of April 23, 2022.

Terra Cotta Buildings Throughout Chicago

Preservation Chicago is calling for the preservation of terra cotta commercial buildings across the city that date from the 1890s-1940s.

These buildings range from small neighborhood commercial buildings to world-renowned skyscrapers.  

“Many of the well-recognized ‘Chicago School’ buildings of The Loop and Central Area are recognized as designated Chicago Landmarks, but often those in communities across the city are overlooked and have few protections,” Preservation Chicago officials wrote.

The use of terra cotta became popular after the Great Chicago Fire in 1871 as an inexpensive, fireproof material to rebuild. Many smaller, low-rise commercial terra cotta buildings go unrecognized and unprotected, according to Preservation Chicago.

“The individual building losses appear isolated, but when viewed from a wider perspective of neighborhood and time, the trend is clear and alarming, and will continue without meaningful recognition, protection and support,” according to Preservation Chicago.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
The Jeffery Theater Building and Spencer Arms Hotel in South Shore .

Jeffery Theater Building & Spencer Arms Hotel

The Jeffery Theater and Spencer Arms Hotel, 7054 S. Jeffery Blvd. and 1952 E. 71st St. in South Shore, were built in 1924 as anchors of a “vibrant commercial district” in the 71st Street commercial corridor, according to Preservation Chicago.

The terra cotta facade and lobby of the Jeffery Theater has survived, along with the residential apartments of the Spencer Arms Hotel, Preservation Chicago officials said.

But they face “serious threat of demolition” as plans were announced in 2017 to demolish the theater and hotel in favor of an entertainment complex. The buildings cover about 25 percent of the development site, according to Preservation Chicago.

“Without a viable preservation solution, it is likely that both buildings will be demolished if this current reuse plan moves forward,” officials wrote.

The organization is encouraging the city to consider part of the old commercial corridor as a Chicago Landmark District to save the buildings.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
The Warehouse, 206 S. Jefferson St., on March 7, 2023.

The Warehouse

A commercial warehouse at 206 S. Jefferson St. was renovated into a three-level nightclub, which was widely popular when it opened in the late ’70s.

A membership-only venue, the Warehouse was well known and patronized by the Black LBGTQ+ community and others, and it was a place of “dance floor liberation,” according to Preservation Chicago.

“The Warehouse became known in Chicago as one of the best places to hear this developing sound which later took its name from the nightclub itself, and ultimately become known as ‘house music,'” Preservation Chicago officials said.

The building was sold in December with a note marking its history and the apparent opportunity to “clear the site” for development, according to Preservation Chicago. The organization is urging the city to initiate landmark designation to the building to “fully recognize and protect this highly significant site of Chicago music history.”

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Taft Hall at the University of Illinois Chicago.

Taft Hall At University of Illinois Chicago

Taft Hall, 826 S. Halsted St., is one of three University of Illinois at Chicago halls that are part of a building cluster linked by second-floor enclosed bridges. Taft Hall is built of concrete and brick and is an example of brutalist architecture, according to Preservation Chicago.

The university announced plans in October to renovate Taft Hall, and they would would include the demolition of its facade. Preservation Chicago is urging the university to find a way to maintain the original facade.

“The removal and replacement of the structure’s concrete cladding would be an unfortunate decision that would accelerate the erosion of [architect Walter] Netsch’s iconic campus design,” Preservation Chicago officials said.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
The Werner Brothers Storage Building, 7613 N. Paulina St. in Rogers Park.

Werner Brothers Storage Building

The Werner Brothers Storage building, 7613 N. Paulina St. in Rogers Park, is fitted with intricate, monochromatic terra cotta.

In 2022, plans were announced to demolish the building in favor of developing affordable housing, according to Preservation Chicago. But the group members think the building can be retrofitted for affordable housing without demolishing it, preserving the historical elements.

“If historic preservation was pursued, the 20 percent Federal Historic Tax Credit could provide millions of additional development dollars to the project, which could be used to build additional affordable units,” Preservation Chicago officials said.

South Side Industrial Buildings

Preservation Chicago also featured three industrial buildings on the South Side and suggested each be considered for adaptive reuse projects.

Those buildings:

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
The Fisk Power Station.

1111 W. Cermak Road in Pilsen:

The Fisk electrical-generating station dates from 1903 and “remains the last large-scale survivor of Chicago’s power generation history reflecting the growth of the city into an industrial powerhouse,” according to Preservation Chicago.

The group recommends an adaptive reuse development or a community-oriented development.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
The Damen Silos, 2860 S. Damen Ave. in Lower West Side.

2860 S. Damen Ave. in Lower West Side

These grain silos are along the South Branch of the Chicago River. The silos were closed in 1977 and were sold along with 23.4 acres of riverfront. Instead of demolition, the preservation group is pitching a “much-needed riverfront environmental restoration.”

RELATED: Southwest Side Environmental Advocates Ask Pritzker To Halt Damen Silos Sale To MAT Asphalt Owner

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
The Continental Can Company Building at 3815 S. Ashland Ave. in McKinley Park.

3815 S. Ashland Ave. in McKinley Park

Plans to demolish this building in favor of a new storage facility were announced last year, according to Preservation Chicago. The building has gothic terra cotta detailing, a feature the preservation group is interested in preserving citywide.

The building is also considered a “major visual anchor of the Central Manufacturing District’s-Original East’s Ashland corridor,” according to Preservation Chicago.

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