Iconic architecture: Chicago has it.
But we are more than just a city of token landmarks.
And every year, in honor of preserving and highlighting our skyline’s lesser-known gems, Preservation Chicago recognizes the city’s most threatened buildings — a list they call the Chicago Seven.
None of ‘em are famous. Many are seldom visited. But all hold a special civic and cultural significance. And you can see them on the Preservation’s annual Chicago Seven tour, returning to the streets July 9th with tickets on sale right now.
So, what’s worth saving, and why?
Below, we take a look at three we think are in dire need of your immediate attention.
Photo: John R. Thompson Center/Flickr
James R. Thompson Center
This stunning piece of modern architecture designed by architect Helmut Jahn has been a point of controversy since opening in 1985, built to be a government building that communicated transparency and openness in its form — the 17-story skylight and public atrium is unlike anything Downtown. Last October, Governor Bruce Rauner announced plans to sell off the building, which many believe will lead to its razing. Today, you may know it as the site where the city’s top secret fast-lane DMV is located. If you don’t, then you’re welcome. The Preservation believes that the Thompson Center was built for the people and should remain standing and accessible to the public.
LaSalle/Van Buren "L" House Station/Flickr
The Preservation does not want the LaSalle/Van Buren “L” station to see the same fate as Madison and Wabash. It’s curious because we’ve seen what restoration could look like with the Quincy stop, which stands as the Loop’s oldest elevated station house. Though LaSalle/Van Buren was built in the same era — it opened in October of 1897 — it has not seen nearly the same amount of attention.
While the the Chinatown we know and love today has seen a bevy of welcomed architectural additions in recent years — like Tom Ping Memorial Park and a Chicago Public Library branch — what’s known as Old Chinatown (a strip of buildings in the South Loop on a stretch of Clark Street in between Congress and Van Buren) is being threatened by the bulldozer. Here, it’s more about the historical significance than the physical place. Back in the 1800s, the district garnered the name “Little Cheyenne” because it resembled the Old West: it’s where a man would go to find brothels, gambling houses and other dens of ill-repute.