16. THREATENED: Old Town Triangle Landmark District Alarmed by Continued Loss of Historic Homes

Growing redevelopment pressure in Old Town Triangle Landmark District has increased the targeting of historic workers cottages, orange-rated buildings, balloon-frame homes, and even mid-century modern homes as potential tear-downs.

Preservation Chicago and neighborhood preservation partner Old Town Triangle Association have found themselves testifying on behalf of multiple homes at many Landmark Commission meetings. This preservation effort has resulted in some preservation saves such as the prototypical workers cottage at 1639 N. North Park Ave. However, demolition for other homes, such as the mid-century modern 1638 N. Sedgwick Ave, have been approved for demolition, as this building was built outside of the 1872 to 1929 period of significance.

There was a silver lining to the Commission on Chicago Landmarks decision to approve the demolition permit for 1638 N. Sedgwick Ave, described by Old Town Triangle Association as “visionary and forward-thinking.” This ’60s brick, mid-century modern home with a distinctive curved front designed by architect Edward Marks clearly falls outside of the period of significance of the early workers cottages and homes. However, the effort to save Sedgwick will likely serve as the catalyst to save other mid-century modern buildings.
Preservation Chicago believes that a new Context Statement for the Old Town Landmark District would be an important tool to protect architecturally important homes of the mid-century modern period within the neighborhood by such architects as Bruce Graham, Walter Netsch, and Harry Weese currently beyond the period of significance. In addition, buildings from the 1930’s from notable architects such as Edgar Miller and Sal Kogan should also be considered for inclusion in the Context Statement. Additionally, this would provide guidance to prospective residential developers to focus their interest and efforts on non-contributing buildings whose redevelopment would prove widely supporting and benefit to the community and to steer clear of historic and contributing buildings.

Ward Miller explained to DNAinfo that “The Landmarks Commission did recognize that there are buildings of the modern movement that are important. Chairman Rafael Leon requested a Context Statement be drafted by staff that would offer some protection to mid-century modern buildings short of them being landmarked.” Preservation Chicago anticipates contributing to the preparation of this report.

Suggested Reading

Old Town Workers Cottage Saved From Wrecking Ball; Second Home Not So Lucky, DNAinfo Chicago, Ted Cox, 1/11/17

Quirky Old Town Residence Gets Reprieve From Wrecking Ball, DNAinfo Chicago, Ted Cox, 12/1/16

City Stands Firm Against Razing Old Town Cottage, DNAinfo Chicago, Ted Cox, 12/9/16

City Demolishes 127-Year-Old Landmark Cottage In Old Town Despite Outcry, DNAinfo Chicago, Joe Ward, 7/25/16

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