DOWNTOWN — Two Chicago skyscrapers and an industrial site top a list of the state’s most endangered historic places, according to a state preservation group.
The Century and Consumers building, 202-220 S. State St. in the Loop, and the Damen Silos, 2860 S. Damen Ave. in McKinley Park, have been named to Landmarks Illinois’ 2023 Most Endangered Historic Places list.
Statewide, this year’s list also includes the Baxter International Headquarters in Deerfield, Alexander Brothers Blacksmith Shop in Geneva, Oak Cottage in Naperville, Richmond’s Historic Wooden Bridge in Richmond, Old Lawes Hotel in Charleston, Affordable Housing in Cairo and the town of Brooklyn.
“Our 2023 Most Endangered sites show willful disregard for the proven environmental, social and economic benefits of reusing historic buildings,” Bonnie McDonald, president & CEO of Landmarks Illinois, said in a statement.
“At a time when Americans are calling for action to solve society’s pressing challenges, like climate change, inequality and housing affordability, there should be no passes for shortsightedness or neglect,” McDonald said. “We will continue to work with local residents and elected officials, as well as building and preservation professionals, to develop solutions for the reuse of these threatened places.”
Built in 1915 and 1913, the Century and the Consumers buildings have suffered for years from deferred maintenance and vacancy, preservationists said.
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 to demolish the buildings.
Preservation Chicago has continuously called for the buildings to be reused, suggesting it become the Chicago Archives Center. There are solutions that satisfy the government’s security needs while restoring the century-old high-rises, according to the group.
An effort to preserve the Century and Consumers buildings got key city backing last month. The Commission on Chicago Landmarks approved a preliminary recommendation to landmark the two buildings at 202-220 S. State St., something preservationists have been seeking for more than a year.
Even if the buildings are landmarked, the federal government will get to decide their ultimate fate.
The Damen Silos are along the South Branch of the Chicago River and are one of the last remaining monuments to Chicago’s historic dominance in the national grain industry, according to Landmark Illinois.
The silos were closed in 1977 and were sold along with 23.4 acres of riverfront. Most recently the site was featured in the 2014 movie, “Transformers: Age of Extinction.”
Instead of demolition, preservation groups have pitched a “much-needed riverfront environmental restoration” that could also include reusing the space for community use.
Other cities have transformed their silos into murals, museums, housing, climbing gyms and sports stadiums, according to Landmark Illinois.
Owner MAT Asphalt is proposing to demolish the iconic 1906 former grain silos in McKinley Park to potentially build new offices and trucking facilities, according to Landmark Illinois.
Demolishing the silos would “rob Chicago of an important piece of its industrial history and prevent a more environmentally friendly and equitable redevelopment of this highly visible site along the Chicago River,” the group’s leaders said.
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