LOSS: After 17 Years of Neglect, GSA Pursues Emergency Demolition of 212 S. State, Located Between Century and Consumers Buildings (Chicago 7 2011, 2013, 2022 & 2023)

208-212 S. State Street, 1920, Benjamin Marshall, prior to facade being covered. Photo credit: Chicago Architectural Photographing Company, State Street, 200-298 S. Folder 1177, Sheet 21, CPC_04_D_1177_021, Chicago – Photographic Images of Change, University of Illinois at Chicago. Library. Special Collections Department

“The Feds began tearing down a vacant three-story building on South State Street this week, but preservationists may have stayed the demolition of adjacent, century-old skyscrapers that were next on the list — at least for now.

“Sandwiched between the historic Century and Consumers buildings, which were granted preliminary landmark status by the city last week, the smaller building had deteriorated so badly that the General Services Administration, which manages government-owned buildings, said the facade was in danger of collapsing on its own.

“The demolition, which will take four to six weeks, will not affect the co-owned towers, but their fate remains uncertain at best.

“The razing of the three-story building formally began on Sunday and will cost nearly $3.2 million, which is part of the $52 million appropriation, the GSA said Tuesday.

“Fenced off and obscured from view, the doomed century-old building at 208-212 South State St. once had some historic significance as well, Miller said. Designed by Marshall & Fox, the Chicago-based architects behind the Blackstone Hotel, Drake Hotel and other iconic buildings, it was ‘slipcovered’ by various remodeling projects over the years, rendering it a shell of its former self.

“Left to decay under the federal government’s stewardship, there is nothing left to save, Miller said.

“The adjacent towers, while also in disrepair, are an entirely different story, he said.

“‘The prize is the Century and Consumer buildings,’ Miller said. ‘State Street is meant to be a street of grandiose, fabulous buildings that take your breath away. There are so many great buildings that are landmarked or should be landmarked, including these two.’

“Legislators approved a $52 million earmark last year to tear down the vacant Century and Consumers buildings in the 200 block of South State Street, which the government acquired in 2007 as a security buffer and potential federal office expansion behind the adjacent Dirksen U.S. Courthouse.

“The steel-framed, terra cotta skyscrapers, decaying monuments to the Chicago School of Architecture, have topped Preservation Chicago’s annual list of the most endangered historic structures for two years running. Last week, the nonprofit group achieved a significant victory when the buildings received a preliminary landmark recommendation from the Commission on Chicago Landmarks.

“Preservation Chicago is proposing an adaptive reuse as a collaborative national archives center for religious groups and other organizations, but the GSA is focused on demolition, with “no federal funds available for rehabilitation, preservation, or restoration of buildings,” according to previously issued public notices.

“It remains to be seen if a Chicago landmark designation would change those plans.” (Channick, Chicago Tribune, 4/19/23)


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