The Wrecking Ball: Preservation Chicago Announces 2014 "Chicago 7" Buildings

In a bit of irony, the activist organization dropped its annual list of the city's most threatened buildings on Chicago's 177th birthday.

Photo by: Ward Miller Interior of the endangered 1912 Renaissance Revival St. Adalbert Catholic Chuch in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood. Gorgeous Corinthian columns bank the entry of a Roman-styled basilica space. The Chicago Archdiocese, custodians of the church, are in a battle with activists and members of the “Save the Towers” campaign. The church is historically significant as a chronicle of Chicago's Polish community.

Every year, architectural enthusiasts and preservationists await the "list" from the grassroots organization Preservation Chicago. People gnash teeth, sometimes shed tears, when they read the pre-obituaries of the "Chicago 7." Why? Because a city renown for breathtaking architecture is losing pieces of itself brick by humbling, landmark brick. 

The 2014 list and ranking includes: (1) Madison/Wabash "L" Station House, (2) the Hotel Guyon, (3) Francis Scott Key Public School, (4) Crawford & Fisk Power Houses, (5) St. Adalbert Catholic Church, (6) the Central Manufacturing District and (7) the Jeffery Theater. 

As a teaser, our roundup of three buildings from the group:

Madison and Wabash “L” Station House
Location: 2 North Wabash
Architect: Unknown

Photo by: Ward Miller / Preservation Chicago Endangered: Chicago's Madison and Wabash elevated "L" station house in the Loop. The Chicago Transit Authority plans to combine Madison/Wabash station with the Randolph/Wabash to create a new Washington/Wabash stop. Construction is slated to begin this year. Without intervention, the historic station house will be demolished. 

It's the last original station house in the Loop Elevated and a magnificent outdoor set-piece to the historic Louis Sullivan-designed Schlesinger & Mayer (Carson Pirie Scott store) and D. H. Burnham and Holabird & Roche structures. It was powered up in the 19th century and designed in a Palladian style with Corinthian capitals, pilasters and cartouches lining the roof. And not so trivially, because of the cable car lines and “L” elevated transit line, this area is nicknamed "The Loop."

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The Jeffery Theater
Location: 71st St. and Jeffery Blvd.
Architect: William P. Doerr 

Photo by: Ward Miller / Preservation Chicago Endangered: Chicago's South Shore Jeffery Theater. Intact is the terra cotta ornamental façade and portions of the lobby. Before the Great Depression, it was part of a chain controlled by the Cooney Brothers, a family with deep connections in show business. During the '30s and '40s, Warner Bros. operated the landmark theater. Currently, the property is under development as a McDonald’s.

William P. Doerr designed the 1,800-seat neoclassical Jeffery Theater, which opened as a vaudeville house in 1923 and a year later switched to a single-screen movie venue. A striking marquee towered above the theater and could be seen from a distance along 71st Street. The Jeffery's glamorous auditorium is long gone and the facade and lobby are the remaining jewels of a building pretty much demolished in the 1990s before converting to the South Shore Bank, a financial crisis casualty which shuttered its doors in 2010.

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The Guyon Hotel
Location: 4000 W. Washington
Architect: Jensen J. Jensen

Photo by: David Schalliol / Preservation Chicago Endangered: Chicago's Guyon Hotel. It had one of Chicago's worst raps, affiliated with mobster Al Capone. Built for $1.65 million (approximately $22 million today), the now vacant hotel has been the center of repeated, failed, attempts at renovation amid a long list of owners.  

The Moorish Revival-style Guyon is in Garfield Park, a neighborhood suffering demoralizing blight and decay. Preservation Chicago added the hotel in 2013 and Landmarks Illinois had a spot on its 2012 endangered list. And it's a sad cream-colored brick beauty with rich red terra cotta accents designed by Jensen and erected in 1927. It never made real money as a hotel, even back in its heyday, and transitioned in the '80s to a single-room-occupancy residence after the area's downward spiral toward urban blight, a challenge for any interested development team. Still, "The Guyon," commissioned by ballroom impresario J. Louis Guyon, is on the National Register of Historic Places, although it doesn't have any legal protections as a landmark. This fact, along with the sheer magnitude and cost of a renovation makes it vulnerable to demolition.  

Read more about Preservation Chicago and it annual Chicago 7 list.

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