THREATENED: Continental Can Company Demolition Looms (Chicago 7 2020, 2021 & 2023)

Continental Can Company Building, a 2023 Chicago 7 Most Endangered. 1920, Samuel Scott Joy, 3815 S. Ashland Avenue. Photo Credit: Serhii Chrucky
Continental Can Company Building, a 2023 Chicago 7 Most Endangered. 1920, Samuel Scott Joy, 3815 S. Ashland Avenue. Photo Credit: Serhii Chrucky
Continental Can Company Building, a 2023 Chicago 7 Most Endangered. 1920, Samuel Scott Joy, 3815 S. Ashland Avenue. Photo Credit: Serhii Chrucky

“The Continental Can Co. building at 3815 S. Ashland Ave., Chicago, is due for demolition soon to make way for a new cold-storage warehouse from Karis: a $30 million project that would bring a much-needed food storage facility close to downtown, said Vice President Ken Verne at a presentation on Thursday, February 8, 2024, at the McKinley Park field house.

“Hosted with the support of 11th Ward Alderwoman Nicole Lee, who also live-streamed the presentation, the meeting featured project representatives outlining their plans for demolition and answering questions from attendees at the meeting.

“I appreciate the additional opportunity to hear what demolition will look like,’ Lee said. ‘Public safety is of utmost importance.’

“Demolition will occur shortly after the city issues its final permit, and demolition will take about four months, Di Silvio said. Lee asked the Karis team for as much advance notice as possible prior to demolition.

“The design of the new cold-storage facility has remained essentially unchanged, Verne said, from the earlier presentations Karis made to McKinley Park residents, as reported here in the McKinley Park News. The structure will be ‘purpose-built,’ Verne said, with special construction requirements, materials and systems needed to keep food cold to -10 degrees Fahrenheit. It will require over 100,000 person-hours of labor to build, he said.

“Verne said Karis’s purchase of the property from longtime owner Avgeris and Associates is still pending. ‘We are purchasing it,’ he said.

“The long-derelict Continental Can Co. building lies in the Original East District of Chicago’s historic Central Manufacturing District. Preservation Chicago listed it in 2023 alongside the Damen Silos as one of their seven most-endangered historic buildings. Although efforts will be made to save some elements from the structure such as Chicago common brick, much of it will be taken to the landfill, Verne said.

“The Continental Can Co. demolition meeting took place in the classroom-sized “blue room” of the McKinley Park field house exactly one week after a demolition meeting for the Damen Silos, which filled the field house auditorium with scores of attendees, numerous objectors and a wide swath of Chicago’s press corps.

“Around 20 people attended the Continental Can Co. demolition meeting, nearly half of whom were members of the presenting team, elected officials and press. No attendees voiced objection to the demolition or cold storage project. (Kerr, McKinley Park News, 2/9/24)

Preserervation Chicago strongly objects to the planned demolition of the Continental Can Co. building at 3815 S. Ashland Ave. We have been in regular communication with stakeholders and had been lead to believe that there was no movement on this project. We were surprised that none of the McKinley Park neightbors who oppose the demolition of Continetnal Can wre present at the public meeting and that we were not notified of the public meeting. Perhaps the public meeting notice was not intended to generate much attention or attendance.

In 2022, plans were announced to demolish of one of the most prominent buildings in the Central Manufacturing District’s-Original East District (CMD East), the Continental Can Building at 3815 S. Ashland Avenue, for the construction of a new cold storage facility. The historic structure, notable for its Gothic terra cotta detailing and eye-catching tower, was designed by the district’s then-in-house architect, Samuel Scott Joy, and completed in 1920.

For over half a century, it housed manufacturing operations for the Continental Can Company, a longstanding and important business that was a major force in the world of packaging throughout the 20th century. The building was also a major visual anchor of the CMD East’s Ashland corridor since its completion. Its tower, once one of many in the CMD East designed by Joy, is now the last remaining of its kind in the district. Located in both the Bridgeport and McKinley Park neighborhoods on the city’s Southwest Side, the Central Manufacturing District’s Original East District (CMD East), is today recognized as an especially important site in the history of Chicago: the first planned industrial park in the United States.

The Central Manufacturing District’s Original East District was designed over the course of decades by numerous acclaimed Chicago architects, offered manufacturers the opportunity to own a custom-built warehouse with front-door access to rail lines and waterways, as well as city services and banking. It was a pioneering undertaking and what is left of the district stands today as a symbol of the great might of industrial Chicago.

The decades since the dissolution of the Central Manufacturing District have seen the disintegration of the district’s many historic industrial buildings. While many remain, some of the district’s grandest structures of the have been demolished due to neglect or redevelopment, prompting Preservation Chicago to name the CMD-Original East District as one of Chicago’s 7 Most Endangered in 2021.

The demolition of this lovely Gothic terra cotta Continental Can Company building and tower would be a terrible loss for the CMD-Original East District and, more broadly, the Southwest Side’s industrial heritage. Preservation Chicago encourages the developer to pursue an adaptive reuse of the Continental Can Building, especially the Ashland Avenue tower and facade.

Read the full story at McKinley Park News

 

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