5. TBD: Preservation Chicago’s Suggestion to Landmark Emmett Till’s Home Covered Nationally

Preservation Chicago suggested Emmett Till’s Woodlawn Residence and the Emmett Louis Till Math and Science Academy as Chicago Landmarks in an effort to recognize and honor his memory, and the civil rights movement that he helped to inspire. The Chicago Tribune published a front page, in-depth article regarding the nomination and the significance of Emmett Till to the Civil Rights Movement. The story was picked up by the Associated Press and reported nationally.

Emmett Till’s Residence and the Emmett Till Elementary School, formerly known as McCosh Elementary School where Emmett attended, are located in Woodlawn at 6427 S. St. Lawrence Avenue and 6543 S. Champlain Avenue respectively. While both buildings are attractive vernacular historic Chicago buildings, the essence of this nomination is their personal connection to Emmett Till.
“By honoring that name and honoring the story and making people aware of these sites gives you a personal connection to it all,” said Ward Miller, Preservation Chicago’s Executive Director. “I think it would send a wonderful message to the Black community of Chicago that these sites are important and these injustices should never happen again.”

A few times per year, the City of Chicago Commission on Chicago Landmarks welcomes ideas and suggestions from the public for potential future landmark buildings and districts.
Preservation Chicago looks forward to these opportunities to elevate well deserving, underappreciated Chicago historic assets into the conversation. Of the many possible nominations considered, Preservation Chicago submitted four nominations. They include:

  • Emmett Till Residence and Emmett Till Elementary School located at 6427 S. St. Lawrence and 6543 S. Champlain respectively in Woodlawn to recognize and honor the memory of Emmett Till.
  • 1200 Block of West Washington Boulevard in the West Loop with its outstanding collection of fine quality industrial structures, including 1217 W. Washington Boulevard by architect D.H. Burnham and Company and which is currently on the 90-Day Demolition Delay.
  • Martin Kimbell Sr. and Martin Kimbell Jr. and Spencer Kimbell Houses located at 2512 and 2524 N. Kimball Avenue in Logan Square. Martin Kimball Sr. is recognized as one of the founders of Logan Square and Jefferson Township.
  • Seth Warner House, a pioneer residence at 631 N. Central Avenue in the Austin Community, and possible adjacent houses dating from the 1860’s.

By ordinance, Chicago Landmarks must meet at least two of the seven criteria for designation, as well as the “integrity” criteria. The seven design criteria include Outstanding Heritage, Significant Event, Significant Person, Exemplary Architecture, Significant Architect, Distinctive Theme, and Unique Visual Feature.

Additionally, Preservation Chicago is excited to have begun the background research to prepare a nomination suggestion for Landmarks for two thematic Chicago Landmark districts. These two future districts include a Chicago Jazz, Blues and Gospel Thematic Landmark District and an LGBTQ Thematic Landmark District. Unlike most landmark districts which are bound together by physical proximity, thematic districts are woven together by a common underlying theme. The purpose of these future districts would be to recognize, celebrate and protect the places and spaces that played an important role in the history of Chicago.

Chicago was a jazz, blues and gospel mecca during the early and mid-twentieth century. Many of the great jazz, blues and gospel legends called Chicago home and while their contributions to the history of Chicago and American music is hard to overstate, many of the places and spaces that tell this fascinating story have been lost or forgotten. A Jazz, Blues and Gospel Thematic Landmark District would serve to recognize, celebrate and protect the important places and spaces where it all happened.

Chicago’s LGBTQ community has made significant contributions to Chicago since the early twentieth century and has been a leader in the movement to win LGBTQ rights both locally and nationally, however, much of this rich and extraordinary history has often been overlooked. An LGBTQ Thematic Landmark District would serve to recognize, celebrate and protect the important places and spaces where people, events, and organizations pushed Chicago to become a beacon of progress and to ensure LGBTQ rights.

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