“A campaign to save two historic buildings on State Street from the wrecking ball took a step forward today when a city panel unanimously approved proposals to assign landmark status to the properties.
“The federal government, which owns the two early 20th-century towers — the Century Building at 202 S. State St. and the Consumers Building at 220 S. State St. — wants to tear them down to create a security buffer zone to protect the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse next door. Federal legislation approved last year included $52 million to cover the cost of demolishing the buildings.
“But preservationists have been imploring federal officials to reconsider that plan, pushing a proposal to turn the buildings into an archives center, a use they say would pose little security threat.
“‘To tear them down is a disgrace and an insult to the proud history of Chicago’s architectural significance,’ Chicago architect Dirk Lohan — who worked on the design of the Dirksen building with his grandfather, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe — said at a meeting today of the Commission on Chicago Landmarks.
“The commission voted unanimously to assign preliminary landmark status to the two Loop buildings, but the process is far from over. And even if the buildings do become official city landmarks, the federal government has the constitutional authority to raze them anyway. But a pressure campaign could persuade the feds to change their mind.
“‘This is an important step because the federal government and (General Services Administration) have not really heard clearly from the city of Chicago that the buildings are significant,’ said Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago, an advocacy group that has been leading the charge to save the structures.
“‘It sends a clear message to the GSA and federal government that they should be looking for alternative uses for these buildings and how important they are for the cityscape,’ Miller said.
“The GSA, the agency that oversees federal buildings, says it is ‘formally neutral’ about the landmark proposals. Because the properties sit within the Loop Retail Historic District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the agency is required to hold a series of its own hearings on its demolition plans. That process began last fall and is expected to wrap up in early 2024.
“The Century and Consumers buildings have led Preservation Chicago’s annual list of most endangered spaces two years in a row. Designed by Jenny, Mundie & Jensen, the Consumers Building, a 22-story structure at 220 S. State St., opened in 1913. The Century Building, a 16-story building at 202 S. State St. designed by Holabird & Roche, opened two years later. The two structures represent the final years of the Chicago School of architecture, before the sleek, art deco style became popular.(Gallun, Crain’s Chicago Business, 5/13/23).