THREATENED: Preservation Chicago Nominates for Chicago Landmark Status the O’Hare Rotunda Building by Gertrude Kerbis and Historic Jackson Park Northwest Chicago Historical Society Nominates for Chicago Landmark Status the Jefferson Park Fire Station

Rotunda Building, O’Hare Airport, Designed by Gertrude Kerbis, Photo Credit C.F. Murphy and Associates

Woman’s Garden, Jackson Park, Photo Credit Eric Allix Rogers
Jackson Park, Osaka Garden, Photo Credit Eric Allix Rogers

A few times per year, the City of Chicago Commission on Chicago Landmarks welcomes ideas and suggestions from the public for potential future landmark buildings and districts. Preservation Chicago looks forward to these opportunities to elevate well deserving, underappreciated Chicago historic assets into the conversation.

Preservation Chicago suggested Gertrude Kerbis’s Rotunda Building at O’Hare Airport as a Chicago Landmark in an effort to recognize, appreciate and protect this important historic building. Historic Jackson Park was also a suggestion for a Chicago Landmark Designation by Preservation Chicago. In addition, the Jefferson Park Fire Station was nominated by Northwest Chicago Historical Society to be considered for Chicago Landmark Status.

The circular Rotunda Building at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport was designed by Gertrude Kerbis during her time at C. F. Murphy Associates. It was built in 1962 and is structurally unique with more than one mile of steel bridge cable integrated into its complex structural roof system, in addition to its programmatic requirements as terminal, concourse, and restaurant facility. It is largely intact today; however, it’s faded from public use due the closing of the original restaurants and the difficulty of accessing the building beyond the added security checkpoints.

It is one the few remaining elements of O’Hare’s “Jet Age” design and represents C.F. Murphy’s contributions to this important airport design, in one of the world’s busiest airports. Gertrude Kerbis was a groundbreaking architect was one of the first women to be at the forefront of Chicago architecture in the 1960s. She worked with Walter Gropius and Mies van der Rohe and at Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill and at C. F. Murphy before opening her own architectural firm, Lempp Kerbis, in 1967.

Unless there is a greater appreciation for this iconic building, there is concern that it could be overlooked in the massive $8 billion O’Hare modernization effort getting underway. Also, there is a precedent for airport buildings being recognized as landmarks across the country, including JFK’s TWA Terminal, LAX’s mid-century modern Theme Building, and Washington Dulles’ Eero Saarinen terminal. Landmarks Illinois included the Rotunda Building on their 2017 Most Endangered List.

Preservation Chicago suggested Jackson Park to become a Designated Chicago Landmark. Jackson Park is exposed to significant threat posed by the construction of the proposed Obama Presidential Center and the proposed Tiger Wood Golf Course. This important historic landscape was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux with contributions by Alfred Caldwell. Jackson Park has been a Preservation Chicago 7 Most Endangered in 2017 and again in 2018, and the focus of significant ongoing preservation advocacy.

Northwest Chicago Historical Society suggested the Jefferson Park Firehouse. Located at 4835 N. Lipps Avenue at the corner of Ainslie Street, this is one of the city’s oldest surviving firehouse buildings. Built in 1906, the two story brick building had elegant beaux-arts detailing including strong horizontal base elements, a decorative sheet-metal cornice and a projecting triangular pediment. The cornice detail and pediment has been lost, but rebuilding it as close to the original design should be part of the proposed redevelopment plan. The design oversight the Chicago Landmark Designation will help the development to be a stronger, more dynamic, and better embraced by the Jefferson Park community.

Additionally, the Washington Park National Bank (Chicago 7 2016) was nominated for consideration for Chicago Landmark Status.

Additional Reading

Preservation Chicago Landmark Suggestion for Rotunda Building

Preservation Chicago Landmark Suggestion for Jackson Park

Landmark Illinois Rotunda Building Most Endangered 2017

Gertrude Kerbis, groundbreaking architect, dies at 89, Blair Kamin, Chicago Tribune 6/15/16

Chicago Modern: More than Mies, “Jet Set” Modern in Chicago: The Rotunda”, by Nate Lielasus, 1/29/12

Jefferson Park Fire Station Preservation Chicago April 2018 Newsletter

Jefferson Park Firehouse, 4835 N. Lipps Avenue, Historic Photo Credit: Northwest Chicago Historical Society
Jefferson Park Firehouse Proposed Redevelopment, 4835 N. Lipps Ave, Rendering Credit: Ambrosia Homes


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