Preservation of Three Chicago Landmarks Honored – Review – Milestone for Chicagoan’s Heartfelt Architectural Pride


It is no small thing to be honored for your preservation efforts in a city, Chicago, which boasts, perhaps apocryphally, that it has more architects per capita than any other city in the world. 


There were 35 nominees for this year’s Driehaus Preservation Awards granted by the Landmarks Illinois organization.  Of these, the three winners were:  The Wrigley Building; the Indian Boundary Park Field House; and the Fortnightly Club of Chicago


Richard H. Driehaus, who established this award in 1994, said, “Safeguarding important and beautiful historic buildings, particularly in Chicago, has been a lifelong passion for me.  Far too many magnificent examples of great architecture have fallen victim to careless development.  I salute this year’s winners for sharing this vision of a Chicago that maintains the best of its history while also ensuring the building remain vibrantly active and continue to contribute to the vitality of our city.”


Bonnie McDonald, President of Landmarks Illinois, spoke with Splash magazines to elaborate on how each of these winners has especially been notable in contributing to “vital communities”.   



Starting with the Chicago Park District, McDonald shares, “Indian Boundary Park is such an inspiring story of commitment to rebuilding a vital community around this park. 



In 2012 there was a devastating fire that destroyed 40% of the building.   The building remained closed for two years during restorations just re-opening in early 2014. 



“For residents of West Ridge this park and this historic building plays a vital role in a sense of community.  Given how extensive the fire damage was the Chicago Park District could have easily made the claim that too much of the building was lost.  It could have been replaced with a contemporary building, for example.  Instead, they listened to the community.  The residents just love this field house.  What was so especially wonderful was that the Chicago Park District then hired an art conservator to go through the fire-damaged building to salvage whatever they could, particularly the Native American motifs.  These were re-installed and overall the work took two years.”



McDonald continues with explaining the role The Fortnightly Club has played.  She says, “The Fortnightly Club of Chicago, originally the Bryan Lathrop House, is one of the few buildings in Chicago designed by the New York-based firm McKim, Mead and White, architects of New York’s former Pennsylvania Station, the Brooklyn Museum, the main campus of Columbia University and the Boston Public Library.  They were part of the 1893 World Columbian Exposition and also renovated the West and East Wings of the White House.  This was one of the few residences they built, for the Lathrop family. 



“In 1922 the Lathrop family sold the residence to The Fortnightly Club, a women’s organization, that has been steward of the building since then.  Since 1893 The Fortnightly has provided a forum for women to have current events discussions and has created a supportive intellectual community for women…For almost 100 years this organization has ensured that the building remained a Gold Coast landmark.  In the 60’s a developer offered a buyout so that he could build a hi-rise.  That’s when the club formed a 501 c 3 charitable organization to accept preservation donations.  They recently invested over $2 million in the mechanical systems of the building and they continue to raise funds to restore architectural elements that had been removed.  By agreement, Landmarks Illinois is the preservation partner of the Historic Preservation Foundation of the Fortnightly.”


Of the remaining winner, the iconic Wrigley Building known to every Chicagoan and most visitors to the city, McDonald says, “The Wrigley Building is a landmark in every sense of the word.  Typically one of the buildings associated with the Chicago skyline, it’s on the corner of Michigan Avenue and the Chicago River so the public also views it on boat tours or on walks along the Magnificent Mile.   The new owners of the building—a consortium including BDT Capital Partners and Zeller Realty Group—worked with local aldermen and the City of Chicago to obtain city landmark status, which allowed a rehabilitation project to move forward using the Cook County Class L Property Tax Incentive.



“The renovation created jobs by re-using a historic building.  When we do restorations we create more jobs than new construction.  Typically you find things behind the walls.  In this case this rehabilitated the entire streetscape, opening up what may be the most prominent corner in Chicago to the public to have a more enjoyable experience.  Before, the Wrigley Company had added a screen between the two towers. Now these are opened up, restoring the historic view of the plaza.  They also assured that the terra cotta was in good condition and replaced windows.  The original facades of the storefronts were restored."



Landmarks Illinois is involved in more than 200 projects at any one time.  One recent project McDonald mentions is the organization’s recent involvement in a public process to re-envision use of Cook County Hospital.  The organization is also championing a new incentive, State Historic Tax Credit, to assist developers in catalyzing those projects taking vacant buildings and finding creative uses for them. 


McDonald says, “We are very proud to have bee involved in successful preservation of some of Chicago’s most iconic buildings that we feel are integral to our Chicago experience and that once were facing demolition.  The Chicago Cultural Center was our first big win in the late 1970’s.”


The Chicago Theater, Medinah Temple, Mies Van Der Rohe’s Farnsworth House are on the short list of other landmarks the organization is proud to have been party in preserving. 


This year’s winners of the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Preservation Awards where honored on November 1 in a special ceremony at the InterContinental Hotel.  The award itself is a small-scale replica of the entrance arch and trading room from the Chicago Stock Exchange building and $500 cash.


For more information visit the Landmarks Illinois website.

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