Crumbling temples, South Side landmarks, neon signs top list of Chicago’s “most threatened” buildings
Architect Clarence Hatzfield's 1921 temple was built in a very different Englewood than today's. At the time, the South Side neighborhood was home to the second busiest commercial corridor in the city after downtown. Vacant for decades, the classically detailed building has an outstanding demolition permit.“It's a prominent and vibrant structure that really deserves a reuse plan,” said Preservation Chicago's Ward Miller. The building made their list in 2004, as well as similar watch lists from sister organization Landmarks Illinois in 2003–2004 and 2009–2010. “We really think this is the last call for the Masonic temple,” Miller said. 2. Main Building, 3300 S. Federal St. This vacant, red brick structure is visible from the Dan Ryan Expressway, its 1890s splendor a unique presence on the mostly modernist campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology. IIT, which owns the Chicago landmark, has not been an absent landlord, however, renovating its interior over the years and recently putting out a request for proposals on the Romanesque revival structure. Nonetheless structural issues threaten this Patten & Fisher building that predates the 1893 Columbian Exposition. 3. A. Finkl & Sons Company Buildings, Kingsbury & The North Branch of the Chicago River Comprising 28 acres of land along the north branch of the Chicago River, this defunct industrial complex has an uncertain future. Once a symbol of Chicago's industrial might, this former manufacturing corridor churned out leather and forged steel. Now it's flanked with wealthy residential communities, its original industrial tenants gone for greener pastures. In 2014 Finkl & Sons moved their operations to Chicago's southeast side, provoking questions about the site's future that Robin Amer explored in detail for the magazine Rust Belt. 4. Agudas Achim North Shore Synagogue, 5029 N. Kenmore Ave. An historic synagogue on a residential block in Uptown, Agudas Achim boasts an unusual blend of architectural styles, mixing Spanish and Romanesque revival flourishes with Art Deco detailing. Brilliant stained glass windows and strange details in the 1922 building's 2,200-seat sanctuary shine through the building's dilapidation, which is substantial after years of vacancy. 5. Clarendon Park Community Center, 4501 N. Clarendon St.
The Clarendon Park Community Center and Field House, originally called the Clarendon Municipal Bathing Beach, is now a community center and field house. When it was built in 1916, its Mediterranean-revival, resort-style design was meant to remind Chicagoans of Lake Michigan's splendor. That meant it was also supposed to erase memories of cholera outbreaks and squalor along the shores of a rapidly industrializing, young city.
Changes to the structure, particularly in 1972, led to water infiltration and roof issues, as well as alterations to the building's historic towers and colonnades. It sits in a tax-increment financing district adjacent to another threatened building, the historic Cuneo Hospital. Miller suggested the two could be saved and redeveloped together.
6. Pioneer Arcade & New Apollo Theater, 1535-1541 N. Pulaski Rd.
Another former commercial corridor that has fallen on tough times, the area around North & Pulaski in West Humboldt Park retains several important works of 1920s architecture that include some of the city's best Spanish Colonial Revival design.
Restoring the commercial structures to their former glory may prove challenging, but Preservation Chicago hopes previous attempts to redevelop individual buildings could coalesce into a larger restoration project using national and local historic rehabilitation tax incentives.
7. Neon signs
Not a building but an essential part of the city's built environment, Chicago's de facto public art gallery of neon signs overhanging public streets is under threat. Donald Trump's sign notwithstanding, many of the commercial advertisements on Chicago streets are beloved local icons. Many are also code violations in waiting, so the challenge is to find and fix up historic signs while scrapping rusted-out, replaceable ones. DNAinfo Chicago collected a few of their readers' favorite neon signs, which you can see here.Visit Curbed Chicago for a map of city showing all seven buildings. More information on the list can be found on Preservation Chicago's website.