v26-2 Edgewater's Landmark Buildings

Vol. XXVI No. 2 - SUMMER 2015

By Kathryn Gemperle

The Landmark Commission of the City of Chicago has designated 11 buildings in Edgewater as landmarks. And the National Register of Historic Places recognizes 10 buildings in Edgewater. Information and photos of these buildings are presented in an exhibit at the Edgewater Historical Society Museum from May 9 until October 4, 2015.

How does a building get on the National Register of Historic Places? In most cases, someone writes a nomination because a building seems to have historic merit. One of the earliest nominations in Edgewater was for the Swedish American Telephone Company building on the 5200 block of Ravenswood. It was nominated in 1985 when it was vacant. The nomination was prepared by Patrick Fitzgerald, who noted it exemplified a heavy timber manufacturing structure that was in good condition.

Another building on the National Register is the Renaissance Apartments at 5510 North Sheridan. This is a co-op apartment building that was nominated by the owners of the building. Another building of note is the Manor House apartments on Bryn Mawr, which was nominated in 1987. The Edgewater Beach Apartments was nominated in 1994.

Some buildings are recognized as Chicago Landmarks, but were first nominated for the National Register, such as the twin houses on North Magnolia that were designed by Walter Burley Griffin in 1908. They were nominated to the National Register in 1977, and the homes were designated City of Chicago Landmarks in 2000.

While an owner of a building can complete the nomination for listing on the National Register of Historic Places (or hire someone to do it), documentation for designation as City of Chicago Landmark can be done only by the staff of the Landmarks Commission. There are other, more important, differences as well. While listing on the National Register is primarily honorary and imposes no restrictions on the building’s owner, that is not the case for buildings designated as City of Chicago Landmarks. Demolition is prohibited except with the approval of the Landmarks Commission, and all permits for changes to the exterior of the building facing the public way are scrutinized by the staff of the Landmarks Commission and must be approved by them.

Recently, a group of mansions on Sheridan Road were added as Chicago Landmarks after the Edgewater Historical Society sought a landmark designation. This happened in 2013. This is also true of the Colvin House on North Sheridan Road, which EHS suggested for landmark designation in 1993.

Does a building have to be old be nominated to be a landmark? It must be built before 1940. There is a list of criteria that the building must meet. As it stands now, the staff of the Commission then investigates the nominated building and creates a report. This was the case in 2008, when 14 buildings in Edgewater were researched by the Landmarks staff as possible parts of an Edgewater Landmark District. The district, unlike most historic districts, did not need to have borders. It just needed a cohesive reason to be nominated, which in this case was “homes built in John Lewis Cochran’s Second Addition to Edgewater.” This landmark district was not supported by many in the community, and so it was not created. However four of the Sheridan Road mansions named in that proposal were named Chicago Landmarks in 2013.

To be recommended by the Commission for the landmark designation, areas, districts, places, buildings, structures, work of art or other objects must meet at least two of the following seven criteria: value as an example of City, State or National heritage; location is a site of a significant historic event; identification with a significant person; exemplary architecture; work of a significant architect or designer; representation of a significant theme; and a unique or distinctive visual feature. Chicago Landmarks must also meet an additional integrity criterion which states that they must possess a significant historic, community, architectural or aesthetic interest or value, the integrity of which is preserved in light of its location, design, setting, materials, workmanship and ability to express such historic, community, architectural or aesthetic interest or value.

Another Landmark District of this type included a number of early Chicago banks that are scattered around the city. One in Edgewater – the Swedish State Bank at 5400 North Clark Street – was designated in 2008 as part of this group. The building is now Hamburger Mary’s restaurant.

In 1983, the City of Chicago conducted the Chicago Historic Resources Survey (CHRS) of all the buildings in the city. Buildings were given ratings and color coded as to their historical importance. The RED (RD) properties possess some architectural feature or historical association that made them potentially significant in the broader context of the City of Chicago, the State of Illinois or the United States of America. About 300 properties are categorized as “Red” in the CHRS. ORANGE (OR) properties possess some architectural feature or historical association that made them potentially significant in the context of the surrounding community. About 9,600 properties are categorized as “Orange” in the CHRS.

In Edgewater there are 107 orange rated buildings, and no red rated buildings. Since all orange rated buildings are potential landmarks, these buildings are invaluable in telling the history of the community. Some view the issue of landmarking as an assault on individual property rights. Others, realizing the value of these properties, consider that we are only caretakers for our community history and that protecting these buildings assures they will be available for future generations to learn from and appreciate.

Also a part of the exhibit is a map of Edgewater showing the Chicago Landmarks, the buildings on the National Register of Historic Places and the Orange rated buildings from the CHRS.

For more information about Edgewater buildings designated as City of Chicago Landmarks or on the National Register of Historic Places, visit our website. The information can be found under “Local History / Historic Sites.”