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Old Nichols is listed as one of 13 ‘Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois’ for 2018


Above / Old Nichols is locally landmarked and in a National Register district in downtown Naperville. However, the landmark status only protects the structure’s main façade as the property awaits redevelopment. Today members of the Save Old Nichols initiative as well as State Representative Grant Wehrli were present when Naperville’s first library was listed as one of the thirteen 2018 Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois. (PN File Photo, April 7, 2018)

Today Joe McElroy, far right, was recognized for helping to write an application on behalf of the Save Old Nichols initiative that put Naperville’s first library on the 2018 Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois, a list that includes 13 properties throughout the state. McElroy was joined by Lisa DiChiera, Director of Advocacy for Landmarks Illinois, and Becky Simon, President of Save Old Nichols. (Photo courtesy Save Old Nichols)

SPRINGFIELD, IL – Landmarks Illinois today announced its 2018 Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois. Landmarks Illinois President & CEO Bonnie McDonald led a press conference on the third floor of the Stratton Building in Springfield to reveal the more than a dozen historic places the statewide historic preservation nonprofit has identified as most threatened by demolition, deterioration or improper development.

For this year’s annual list of endangered historic properties, Landmarks Illinois is calling attention to sites throughout the state that represent unique parts of Illinois’ 200-year history, in honor of the Illinois Bicentennial. The sites on the 2018 Most Endangered list help tell the story of Illinois’ early beginnings to its more recent past. Many of this year’s sites have also served as important community gathering spaces where vital social bonds and civic dialogue occurs.

“These endangered places still have value in providing a venue for personal connections, where we can get to know our neighbors and work together to solve problems,” said Bonnie McDonald, President & CEO of Landmarks Illinois. “With some creativity, vision and committed investment, these endangered properties can be preserved and reused. Landmarks Illinois is here to help every step of the way.”

Illinois State Rep. Grant Wehrli attended the press conference, saying it was great to see the Naperville building recognized, one that has been a block of foundation for the community, representing the path to lifelong learning, education and literacy. (Photo courtesy Save Old Nichols)

Editor’s Note / Except for Old Nichols, the 2018 Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois are listed in alphabetical order by location.

Old Nichols Library, Naperville

This building, constructed in 1898 and designed by architect M.E. Bell, was Naperville’s first public library. It features rusticated limestone quarried in Naperville and is locally landmarked and in a National Register district. However, the landmark status only protects the structure’s main façade, and a developer has plans to demolish the remainder of the building for a new development. (Read More)

(Last fall, the Save Old Nichols Library initiative mounted a campaign when more than 250 yard signs dotted the local landscape. After thoughtful and educational deliberation all around on Sept. 19, 2017, the Naperville City Council voted 6-3 to designate Old Nichols Library as a local landmark. The group’s aim then became to raise awareness in a quest to work with the developer to adapt the original structure into his plans for redevelopment of the property at 110 S. Washington.)

The Forum, Chicago 

A former assembly hall built in 1897 in the Bronzeville neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side attracted musical greats like Nat King Cole and Muddy Watters and served as the site of important civil and labor rights meetings. The Forum today requires significant rehabilitation. Funding has been difficult to secure for this unique historic building on a retail corridor challenged by decades of disinvestment. (Read More)

James R. Thompson Center, Chicago 

This is Chicago’s best example of grandly-scaled, Postmodern architecture. Designed by Helmut Jahn and built in 1985, the building faces a demolition threat as its current owner, the State of Illinois, pursues a possible sale that may not require reuse of the existing structure. LI listed the Thompson Center in 2017 on our Most Endangered list, and this year, has released renderings to show a reuse concept for the irreplaceable building. (Read More)

Second Church of Christ, Scientist, Chicago 

This classically inspired church, built in 1898 and part of the National Register-listed Lakeview Historic District, is the oldest continually operating Christian Science church in the city. It was designed by S.S. Beman, perhaps best known as the architect behind the Pullman Company Town in Chicago. The National Register district does not provide landmark protection, unfortunately, and the congregation’s marketing of the building in a desirable real estate area leaves it vulnerable. (Read More)

Chautauquas & Tabernacles, Des Plaines, Freeport & Shelbyville

Three structures related to the Chautauqua and Camp Meeting movements in Illinois are included: the Waldorf Tabernacle in Des Plaines, the Oakdale Tabernacle in Freeport, and the Chautauqua Auditorium in Shelbyville. These structures all require maintenance and repairs in order to serve the community once again. They represent a unique part of Illinois’ history in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with large gathering spaces in natural settings for the public to hear sermons or educational lectures. (Read More)

State Fairgrounds, DuQuoin & Springfield

Illinois’ two state fairgrounds, Springfield and Du Quoin, are both home to numerous structures that have suffered from deferred maintenance as the State of Illinois lacks the capital required for such projects. In Springfield, Barn 13 required emergency repairs this year and the Coliseum remains closed due to deterioration, while the Grandstand building in Du Quoin is in need of a new roof. Over a dozen buildings at both fairgrounds need significant repairs and new roofs, but funding sources have not been secured. (Read More)

Varsity Theater Block, Evanston

The 1700 block of Sherman Avenue is one of the last remaining historically intact blocks in downtown Evanston and is unprotected. Historic structures on this block, like the 1926, J.E.O Pridmore-designed Varsity Theater, contribute to the city’s downtown character and are vulnerable teardown targets to make way for future new developments. (Read More)

The Nite Spot Cafe, Fairmont City

This former restaurant along Route 66 features an iconic mid-century, neon sign outside that continues to remind passersby of a bygone era when families and tourists hit the “Mother Road” – the historic highway from Chicago to Los Angeles. The Nite Spot Café closed in 1984 and remains vacant. The building is threatened with condemnation and demolition by Fairmont City, despite the owner’s plans to complete the necessary structural repairs this year. (Read More)

Central Congregational Church, Galesburg

Built in 1898 and designed by C.E. Gottschalk and Beadle Architects, this historic church is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It has been host to prominent figures like Galesburg native Carl Sandburg, who celebrated his 75th birthday and the release of his autobiography at the church. Lack of funding, however, has led to deferred maintenance of the structure and an inability to complete significant repairs. The church congregation needs new partners, funding sources or possibly to sell the historic church in order to secure a long-term preservation solution. (Read More)

Early Settlement – Era Buildings, Geneva

Two specific sites built within the first two decades of Geneva’s founding are included in this listing: the Amasa White House and the Mill Race Inn. These sites represent both commercial and residential development during Geneva’s early settlement years, are humble in nature and exhibit the vernacular architecture being constructed by Geneva’s first Eastern United States and European settlers. Mill Race Inn faces demolition and the Amasa White House remains vacant with no use. (Read More)

Kincaid Mounds, Massac & Pope Counties

A rare, archeological site built by settlers in the Middle Mississippian period more than a thousand years ago. The site, which spans Massac and Pope Counties, is a National Historic Landmark. However, with no full-time staff dedicated to Kincaid Mounds, a local nonprofit organization is concerned that limited funding, deteriorating interpretation, farming practices and soil erosion threaten the proper care and long-term survival of the mounds. Just nine of the original estimated 19 earthen works exist today. (Read More)

Rock Island County Courthouse, Rock Island

The Spanish Renaissance or Roman-style building was designed by Fredrick C. Gunn and Louis S. Curtis and built in 1897. The courthouse served as the county seat since 1897, but today faces demolition following the completion of a new Justice Center in late 2018. The Public Building Commission has called for the demolition of the historic structure after courthouse operations move to the new center next door. Public support to seek reuse options has been strong, but the final decision resides with the Rock Island County Board. (Read More)

Stran-Steel House, Wilmette

This unique home built of steel and baked iron enamel was featured at the “Homes of Tomorrow” exhibit at the 1933 Century of Progress Fair in Chicago. It was designed for the Stran-Steel Corp. to feature modern home design and was relocated to Wilmette after the Fair. It has no landmark protection and faces a demolition threat by its current owner who plans to build two new homes on the site. The owner has offered the home to anyone who can move it from its current location by this summer. (Read More)

More about  Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois

Since 1995, Landmarks Illinois’ Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois has called attention to threatened historic sites in need of assistance in the form of responsible stewardship, creative reuse plans and/or advances in public policy. The annual list provides a focus for Landmarks Illinois’ statewide advocacy efforts.

Over the last 24 years, a third of all properties and sites included on the annual Most Endangered list have been saved. Less than a quarter of them have been demolished, and the remainders are in varying stages between being continually threatened and rehabilitation. Readers can view past years’ Most Endangered lists on Landmarks’ website.

Landmarks Illinois

Landmarks Illinois is a membership-based nonprofit organization serving the people of Illinois. 

For more information, download the 2018 Most Endangered Press Packet.

Story submitted by Landmarks Illinois. Find additional photos and more about today’s press conference at www.Landmarks.org.

PN UPDATE with Clarification, April 27, 2018 / Joe McElroy writes, “A lot of the nomination form was lifted from stuff Charlie (Wilkins) wrote with input from Barbara (Hower). And it’s not a grant; no money involved, but plenty of good publicity. That’s why we did it, to let locals know that this is not just a Naperville issue.”

RELATED PN Posts (April 2017-April 2018) / Find the “Timeline” & more under Save Old Nichols

“It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”               —Harry S. Truman, U.S. President, (1945 – 1953)

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PN Editor
PN Editor
An editor is someone who prepares content for publishing. It entered English, the American Language, via French. Its modern sense for newspapers has been around since about 1800.