Chicagoland Architecture Substack Blog: Demolitions of 2022

The Ramcke House became another orange-rated structure lost to demolition for a side yard. John Ramcke House, 1888, 2028 N. Seminary Avenue. Photo Credit: Rachel Freundt / Architecture and History of Chicagoland Blog
Cenacle Retreat House taken in October of 2021. Cenacle Sisters Retreat and Conference Center, 1967, Charles Pope, 513 W. Fullerton Parkway. Photo Credit: Rachel Freundt / Architecture and History of Chicagoland Blog

“It’s that time of year again when we look back at the buildings we lost in 2022. Just like my 2021 post, Chicago continues to destroy its rich architectural history and well-built environment for soulless new development. Or in the case of areas like Lincoln Park replace multi-unit structures with side yards. It’s all so infuriating. And the suburbs aren’t much better, tearing down what is sometimes one of only a handful of architecturally significant buildings in town. This post doesn’t include every single demolition, only the structures I personally captured with my camera (or phone) over the past year.

“Let’s start with the John Ramcke House, orange-rated in the Chicago Historic Resources Survey (CHRS), that had a demolition delay expire in January of 2022. Originally built in 1888, the multi-unit structure was purchased for $1.3 million by a neighbor so he could have a side yard even though he lives near Trebes Park. A wealthy individual having extra yard space doesn’t positively contribute to the urban environment. Nor does the ‘I can do what I want with my property’ argument end up creating a more cohesive community. The homes are located in the Sheffield National Register Historic District, a federal honor that gives no real protections. So this vulgar and wasteful gesture of opulence was perfectly legal, but that doesn’t make it right.

“Staying in Lincoln Park let me just say that I still can’t get over what happened with the Cenacle Sisters Retreat Center, a simple brick modernist brick complex designed by local architect Charles Pope in 1967. Considered ‘non-contributing’ to the Mid-North Landmark District, the main problem with Cenacle is it had no rating in the CHRS because any building constructed after 1940 was not included in the survey. How many times have I mentioned that the nearly 30-year-old CHRS needed to be updated like yesterday? We are losing far too many examples of modern architecture designed over the past 50-70 years. This remarkably beautiful piece of masonry should have been saved for adaptive reuse.

Here’s a great write-up by Lynn Becker that discusses the flaws in the city’s system of saving postwar designs. With demolition completed by August, eight lots on the Cenacle property will be redeveloped for multi-million dollar single-family homes and two-flats. It’s a shame this seven-story building could not have been repurposed, especially knowing the ninth lot will include a four-story, nine-unit structure. The environmental impact of this needless demolition shouldn’t be dismissed. Let’s not forget the greenest building is the one that already exists!” (Freundt, Architecture and History of Chicagoland Blog, 1/6/22)

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