South Shore Nature Sanctuary
Photo by Eric Allix Rogers
The Calumet Heritage Partnership’s Calumet Heritage Area Most Endangered List is a an annual list of landmarks across the bi-state, Calumet region that are in jeopardy. Places included on the Most Endangered List face numerous, often complex combinations of problems including direct plans for demolition, neglect, obsolete use, structural stability, and owners who do not have the money to make repairs or are uncooperative to efforts for preservation. In addition to the main list the annual list includes a thematic list focusing on a category of landmarks that face special challenges. The goal of the list is to bolster advocacy efforts to find solutions and save impeilled landmarks.
The 2020 Calumet Heritage Area Most Endangered List includes a masonic temple, iconic Chicago green space, a water tower, and highlights the unique challenges facing sacred spaces. Places of worship are among the most architecturally distinguished structures in our communities, but they suffer from declining attendance, constrained resources, and over-scaled buildings.
THREAT: Two proposals have been under consideration for Jackson Park/South Shore Cultural Center and expect to be amplified in 2020 – the Obama Presidential Center and a Tiger Woods golf course. Both proposals would adversely and permanently alter these historically significant landscapes.
HISTORY: Jackson Park, Midway Plaisance and the South Shore Cultural Center are among the greatest historic and natural assets of Chicago’s South Side. The borders of these parks converge at South Shore Drive at 67th Street and also at Stony Island Avenue and the Midway Plaisance, where Jackson Park connects to Washington Park, another remarkable Chicago treasure, also designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux.
The sites are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and certain features, structures, and buildings of both park sites are designated Chicago Landmarks. These include the Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) building, constructed as the Palace of Fine Arts in 1893, along with the Columbia/Darrow Bridge and the landscape features of the park surrounding the MSI building and bridge. The South Shore Cultural Center building, the Club Building, the Gatehouse, Stable, Pergola, and several outdoor terraces are also Chicago Landmarks.
THREAT: The building has stood vacant for more than a decade. It was an important commercial building in the South Chicago community, and there are currently no plans to reuse the structure. The building is not well secured or mothballed, leaving it vulnerable to further deterioration.
HISTORY: More research is needed but the 1912 Proceedings of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge Ancient Free and Accepted Masons annual meeting held in Chicago note the building was the meeting location for Lodge No. 731 and Lodge No. 767 Triluminar. From the 1921 proceedings, William W.M. Bending was listed as a Deputy Grand Master.
THREAT: The building was recently sold at auction and it is unknown whether the new owner is committed to its restoration or demolition. The building has experienced significant deterioration by neglect over the last three decades.
HISTORY: The school was established in 1905 by the Sisters of Loretto, a Roman Catholic religious community of uncloistered women dedicated to both faith and education. The Sisters of Loretto was founded in 1609 by an Englishwoman named Mary Ward (1585-1645).
By the mid-1950s, the school became noted for embracing African American women into its student body without any caps on the number of African American women enrolled. This idea separated the school from others in the vicinity, especially when Woodlawn was experiencing large racial changes in the 1950s, 1960s, and early 1970s.
The school was later merged into other institutions as population in the community declined and continued to change from multi-cultural, white ethnic and mixed race to predominately African American. After decades of disinvestment the area, the building was sold to the Woodlawn Community Development Corporation (WCDC), the development arm of The Woodlawn Organization, and repurposed since the school’s closing, including as a social service building and a church affiliated with Metropolitan Church.
THREAT: Indiana American Water plans to demolish the structure now that it is no longer used as a part of the site’s emergency back-up system. American Water estimates demolition will cost $900,000 while rehabilitation would cost $1 million.
HISTORY: The 133-foot water tower is among Gary’s oldest landmark structures. Shortly after the city’s founding by U.S. Steel in 1906, the Gary Heat, Light, and Water Company constructed the utilities necessary for tens of thousands of new residents and businesses. While the centerpiece of the waterworks was a Beaux-Arts pumphouse that no longer stands, the water tower on Gary’s westside remains. Completed in 1909, the tower’s tank measured 30 feet in diameter and sat on eight 90-foot steel columns. Rather than settling for an exposed steel skeleton, the Gary Heat, Light, and Water Company added a concrete block shell that transformed the utilitarian tower into an octagonal landmark, complete with decorative cornice and parapet wall.
THREAT: In February 2018, multiple failures of the heating system and bursting water pipes caused the Theodore Roosevelt College and Career Academy occupying the building to relocate. The building was already facing issues from deferred maintenance due in part to its owner, the Gary Community School Corporation, having insufficient funds to conduct basic operations. Consultants estimate repairs to the heating system and pipes to cost $2.4 million with another $6-8 million for other damage and mold/asbestos abatement.
HISTORY: Roosevelt is known for many things, including its role in development of William A. Wirt’s nationally recognized Platoon System, design by nationally renowned school architect William Butts Ittner, and most importantly as a center of civic pride in the African American community of Gary during the era of forced segregation.
The Gary School Board built Roosevelt in response to a 1927 attempt to integrate Emerson High School that led to public backlash and a white student protest. While its origins stem from the practice of “separate but equal,” Roosevelt became a source of pride and academic excellence. The school also had success outside of the classroom, winning the city football championships in 1947 and 1948, while the basketball team won the National Negro Basketball Championships in 1932, 1933, 1934, 1936, and 1939.
THREAT: The owner of the waterfront property announced in the summer of 2019 that they plan to construct a multi-story condominium building where the depot now sits. The owner has offered the building to anyone willing to pay for it to be moved otherwise it will be demolished. A new location will need to be identified and cost estimates for moving it would start at approximately $250,000.
HISTORY: The c. 1910 Prairie School depot is joined only by the 11th Street South Shore station as Michigan City’s remaining historic train stations. The building is in remarkably great condition, currently housing a local restaurant.
THREAT: The building has sat vacant for over two decades and continues to deteriorate following an interior fire and without a much-needed roof and exterior masonry repairs.
HISTORY: The Calumet Trust and Savings Bank was established in 1909 to serve industrial workers. The neoclassical building also known as the Riley Bank Building was constructed in 1916. The backer of its construction was Charles W. Hotchkiss who was involved in the development of the railroad in northwest Indiana. Following its closing as a bank, the building was occupied by various city and federal government services. The building is one of the last early 20th century commercial buildings located in what was historically a bustling Chicago Avenue corridor.
Across America, religious buildings are among the most historic, architecturally distinguished, lavishly ornamented structures in a community, and when congregations shrink, maintenance suffers, and it is only a matter of time before a landmark is in jeopardy. Sacred spaces in the Calumet region are no different – faced with declining attendance, constrained resources, and the burdens of aging, under-maintained, and over-scaled edifices. Congregations of nearly every faith face challenges of unanticipated magnitude. Once an object of civic pride, these historic sacred places now pose a serious challenge to many denominations and congregations.If faith communities abandon or are forced to vacate their buildings, the challenge is magnified to then find a sustainable reuse. Often anchors of neighborhoods across the region, sacred spaces face an uncertain future and are in immediate need of our attention.
THREAT: The congregation constructed a new building on an adjacent lot, leaving the original sanctuary vacant for several years. The design of First AME is credited to William Wilson Cooke, an African American architect who got his start designing buildings for African American schools and college in the South before arriving to Gary in 1921. Cooke led a successful career in the city until the Great Depression, when he went to work as one of the first African American employees of the U.S. Treasury Department designing federal courthouses and post offices. First AME is one of only a few remaining buildings in Gary designed by Cooke.
THREAT: In the face of dwindling attendance numbers and region-wide consolidation, the current parish has received multiple notices for closure from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Gary. Complete closure has been averted, but the future remains uncertain for the complex that includes a soaring 1926 Renaissance Revival church, three-story school (the original church), convent, and rectory.
THREAT: St. Michael the Archangel is one of many churches threatened with closure by the Archdiocese of Chicago.
Polish congregants built this magnificent Gothic Revival Church between 1907 and 1909. It was designed by Architect William J. Brinkmann.
From the Archdiocese of Chicago website: “The main altar reredos is constructed of butternut and bird’s eye maple wood, as are the two side altars. The central statue of St. Michael, the two incensing angels and the statues on the side altars were sculpted and painted by hand. The beautiful and rare communion rail is carved in oak with a white marble top. The interior of the church can seat 1,000 people.
“Interesting to music enthusiasts is the grand piano which belonged to famed composer, Ignace Jan Paderewski.”
“The magnificent stained-glass windows were made by F.X. Zettler of Munich, Germany. Of special note are the two transept windows on the east and west sides of the church. They are the largest and perhaps the most beautiful stained-glass windows in the Archdiocese of Chicago.”
THREAT: The congregants of what is now the Reformation Evangelical Lutheran Church moved their worship services to a different location because of serious roof integrity and other structural issues. The church is vacant and at risk of further deterioration and potential collapse.
In 1887, George Pullman, the founder of the Pullman Car Company in the adjacent Pullman neighborhood, donated two lots to build the Elim Lutheran Church to serve the spiritual needs of Swedish workers at Pullman. The first service was held there in December 1888. The architect was Solon S. Beman, who designed the planned company town for the Pullman car Company, parts of which are now a National Monument. Prior to his election to the U.S. Senate and eventually President of the United States, President Barack Obama maintained a small workspace in this church during his community organizing days in the Roseland and Pullman communities.