V28-2 From the President

Vol. XXVIII No. 2 - SPRING 2017

By Robert Remer

Preservation issues are again upon us, and we had a great fundraising party to preserve the memory of the Edgewater Beach Hotel.

First for the preservation beat. We have to realize that the improving economy and rising home prices have put older homes again in the sights of developers wishing to demolish homes to erect multiunit buildings in their place. We are also seeing economic forces target commercial buildings with historic distinctions; with the advent of TOD (Transportation Oriented Development) tax incentives a number of commercial structures have been purchased with the intent to build multiunit buildings with primarily studios for younger persons who use public transportation without need for auto storage or transport; these have been near CTA stations.

One of the dilemmas we face as your historic society is that there is no legal protection for historic buildings that are neither city landmarks nor “red or orange rated” buildings (ones deemed with landmark potential, and temporary demolition delays can be sought). Except for landmarks, there are only 9900 red or orange buildings in the city, based on a years long survey that ended in 1995. Unfortunately, the survey was based on limited data, mostly external appearances, while community, personal and architectural histories were not always available. Nevertheless, history has shown that landmarking has been approved to otherwise ordinary buildings if there had been a special history whereby it met enough of the preservation criteria.

We know from experience that there are numerous buildings in Edgewater that have many distinctive architectural or historic features that warrant their preservation. When “teardowns” begin to emerge as a trend, we want to be proactive, but we often don’t know about potential teardowns until it is too late. Even then, the only recourse is to use community action to try to encourage owners to rehab and not to teardown, or we may try to initiate the landmark application process. As a volunteer organization, you can imagine how many volunteer hours it can take to be on the vanguard of preservation, while also running a museum and conducting programs and preserving artifacts.

Here are a few current examples of what we are facing:

5339 Lakewood, a lovely brick 2-flat was recently sold for $887,200 to the neighboring owners, was torn down, and then the land divided so each of the neighbors could increase their lot/yard size. This is a really good example of how strong economic forces are to end up in teardowns. In this case, the community had been notified, but the plans proceeded.

6027 N. Kenmore, a lovely four-square was sold on February 24th for $900,000 and on March 1 it was demolished for what will eventually be a multiunit building. This had been a candidate for the Landmark District proposed by the landmarks staff for the single family homes in Cochran’s Third addition to Edgewater in 2009. Unfortunately, we did not know about the demolition until it was taking place. Subsequently, the Alderman’s office has agreed to inform us of any demolition permits they become aware of.

1423 Catalpa – Farm House – Fortunately we were notified about the proposed demolition of this building, which it turns out was the farm house from Edgewater’s last remaining farm. This gave the building some significance, but we chose not to wage an effort to save it, but we did make efforts to get photos of the outside and the inside.

1436 W. Berwyn is a Greystone which is almost the twin of its more famous neighbor “the castle” at 1430 W. Berwyn, which has frequently been on the EHS house tours. We were again fortunate to be informed of the demolition permit to afford a chance to influence the decision to demolish. At press time there is a community petition drive that was initiated by the neighbors and the Alderman’s office had expressed interest in saving the building. Preservation Chicago has also given us their support. The developer has agreed to a delay but insists on a six-flat for the site.

Woodruff Arcade at Sheridan and Broadway – once a common architectural form, the interior retail arcade model has diminished in importance in the U.S., although it is still a popular and functional retail model in European and South American cities. You may not recognize the inside but this is the building that houses Planned Parenthood and the Mustard Seed religious bookstore. This is the last remaining arcade building in all of Chicago, and EHS has formally requested the city to landmark it. The building has been recently sold, and we understand the new owners plan to build a multi-story residential building. Hundreds of petition signatures have been gathered and, as of press time, several block clubs and the Edgewater Environmental Sustainability Project have supported saving the building or the interior, and either to landmark it or to landmark the interior arcade.

We are also on the alert for potential demolitions of buildings in the Bryn Mawr Historic District for residential development.

The iconic Edgewater Beach Hotel was torn down in 1970, but we still celebrate it in our current exhibit and in our April Midnight in the Marine Room fundraiser at The Breakers at Edgewater Beach, which sits atop the footprint of the original hotel. We were honored that the Breakers sponsored both the exhibit and the event. We had quite a time with dancing to the music of the Radium Swing Band, tasteful dishes with great service reminiscent of the days of the hotel, and spirited bidding at a cornucopia of a silent auction. This fundraiser is one of our three main sources of income, so we thank all of you who came, enjoyed yourselves, and took away treasures from the auction.

I want to especially thank Marty Stewart, our Vice President, who shepherds this event every year; this was the best yet. He had a great team that included Barb Strauss, Dorothy Nygren, Steve Meiss, Troy McMillan, Tiffany Middleton, Jill Sirajullah, Marieluise Kailing, Pat McParland, Pat Duff and Bob Remer.

Thanks also to Gloria Evenson and Mae Johnson for photographing the event.