Ogden Keeler Industrial Buildings

Ogden-Keeler Industrial Buildings, Western Felt Works, 1916, R.C. Fletcher, 4115 W. Ogden Avenue, a 2024 Chicago 7 Most Endangered. Photo credit: Max Chavez / Preservation Chicago
Ogden-Keeler Industrial Buildings, Western Felt Works, 1916, R.C. Fletcher, 4115 W. Ogden Avenue, a 2024 Chicago 7 Most Endangered. Photo credit: Debbie Mercer
Ogden-Keeler Industrial Buildings, Turner Manufacturing Company Building, 4147-4151 W. Ogden, Alfred S. Alschuler, 1918 – 1921, a 2024 Chicago 7 Most Endangered. Photo credit: Max Chavez / Preservation Chicago
Ogden-Keeler Industrial Buildings, Turner Manufacturing Company Building, 4147-4151 W. Ogden, Alfred S. Alschuler, 1918 – 1921, a 2024 Chicago 7 Most Endangered. Photo credit: Max Chavez / Preservation Chicago
Ogden-Keeler Industrial Buildings, Turner Manufacturing Company Building, 2309-2325 S. Keeler, Alfred S. Alschuler, 1918 – 1921, a 2024 Chicago 7 Most Endangered. Photo credit: Max Chavez / Preservation Chicago
Ogden-Keeler Industrial Buildings, Turner Manufacturing Company Building, 2309-2325 S. Keeler, Alfred S. Alschuler, 1918 – 1921, a 2024 Chicago 7 Most Endangered. Photo credit: Max Chavez / Preservation Chicago
Ogden-Keeler Industrial Buildings, Turner Manufacturing Company Building, 2309-2325 S. Keeler, Alfred S. Alschuler, 1918 – 1921, a 2024 Chicago 7 Most Endangered. Photo credit: Max Chavez / Preservation Chicago
Ogden-Keeler Industrial Buildings, Turner Manufacturing Company Building, 2309-2325 S. Keeler, Alfred S. Alschuler, 1918 – 1921, a 2024 Chicago 7 Most Endangered. Photo credit: Max Chavez / Preservation Chicago

Ogden Keeler Industrial Buildings

Western Felt Works
Address: 4115 W. Ogden
Year: 1916
Architect: R.C. Fletcher
Style: Prairie School

Turner Manufacturing Company
Address: 4147-4151 W. Ogden; 2309-2325 S. Keeler
Year: 1918 – 1921
Architect: Alfred S. Alschuler
Style: Prairie School and Classical Revival

Overview

The Ogden Keeler Industrial Buildings are a collection of three historic manufacturing structures situated along West Ogden and South Keeler Avenues on the border of the Little Village and Lawndale Community Areas. The group of buildings were the former headquarters of two lucrative Chicago companies, Western Felt Works and the Turner Manufacturing Company, both of which found great success providing goods to the nation throughout the twentieth century.

The buildings have retained a significant level of architectural integrity since they were built in the 1910s and 1920s, displaying characteristics emblematic of Chicago industrial design from this era. Most notably, the Turner Manufacturing Company buildings were designed by acclaimed Chicago architect Alfred S. Alschuler. However, these three structures are today threatened with demolition. Current owners seek to create a blocks-long logistics warehouse that will permanently alter the streetwall of this portion of Ogden Avenue, part of the original famed Route 66. Preservation Chicago urges the landmarking of these buildings and their reuse or incorporation into the proposed development.

Alschuler is one of Chicago’s most important architects. Born in Chicago and educated at the Armour Institute of Technology (today, the Illinois Institute of Technology), he was trained in the offices of Dankmar Adler before eventually opening his own practice in 1907. Although the architect became largely known for grand designs like the London Guarantee Building (1922) and KAM Isaiah Israel (1924), Alschuler made a name for himself with his earlier solo commissions which were largely commercial or industrial buildings. His work in this realm is of particular note as Alschuler is regarded as the first Chicago architect to employ reinforced concrete construction in his designs. These buildings’ external expressions often reflected the powerful concrete structure found within, best exemplified by his Florsheim Shoe Company Building (1926) at 3963 W. Belmont.

Threat

The Ogden Keeler Industrial Buildings, along with multiple other neighboring structures, are currently threatened with demolition as part of a substantial warehouse redevelopment project that would extend along Ogden Avenue from Keeler Avenue to Pulaski Road. The proposal, led by IDI Logistics, envisions a 246,200 square foot structure on a nearly 15-acre site that would necessitate the demolition of long-standing buildings that have housed dozens of small, local businesses for decades.

Recent community engagement meetings led by IDI Logistics have indicated that reuse of these structures—or even preservation of the facades and other significant architectural elements—is not a consideration at this time. Furthermore, environmental concerns about the demolition of these buildings, along with the environmental impact of a logistics warehouse that will surely bring increased trucking to this corridor are all additional factors that must be carefully considered.

West Ogden Avenue was part of the iconic Route 66 journey in and out of Chicago. One of the joys of this legendary roadway has always been the variety of sites and architecture that dot its landscape. From motels to diners, industry to nature, Route 66 has always been a celebration of America’s finest places. The Ogden Keeler Industrial Buildings and their innovative manufacturing histories are part of that legacy; losing them to a severe, windowless development would only serve to lessen the power of Route 66 and harm the surrounding Lawndale and Little Village communities.

Recommendations

The construction of this proposed logistics center would be extremely harmful to both the people of the nearby communities as well as the communities’ architectural and manufacturing histories. Preservation Chicago recommends that this logistics center not move forward in its current proposed location, instead opting for a more industrially dense area, one that would not impose such environmentally negative impacts on adjacent Chicagoans. Demolition of industrial structures in the area—the notoriously dangerous Crawford Power Plant demolition in particular—have raised concerns about the impacts of legacy industry on West Side communities of color. This proposal continues that damaging pattern of perpetuating environmental injustice.

However, if this proposal does move forward, incorporation of these historic structures into the new warehouse is imperative to the history and visual appeal of the neighborhood. We call on IDL Logistics to explore sensible, creative approaches, whether through retrofitting of these buildings as satellite facilities or even preservation of the historic facades and signature exterior elements, to establish the campus’ connection to this area’s storied industrial past.

Whatever the outcome, we believe that further transparency and environmental accountability will be necessary throughout the process of this proposal’s review. Per IDL Logistics, a tenant has not been secured for this warehouse, meaning that this proposal is by all indications speculative. When the fate of community health and safety hangs in the balance, it is hard to justify large-scale projects that have no certain occupant. On the other hand, if a tenant has indeed been secured, this raises further concerns about why this crucial information would be concealed. The proposal as it stands poses far too many risks for Little Village and Lawndale and we ask that it be more carefully considered so as to mitigate the most deleterious effects on the health, architecture, and history of this corridor.

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