The Damen Grain Silos situated along the South Branch of the Chicago River have been an iconic part of Chicago industrial and agricultural history for over a century. Grain was one of the major industries upon which Chicago was built and the Damen Silos played a significant role for over 70 years. The silos were closed in 1977 and enjoyed a second life in recent years as a film site and destination for unofficial urban tourism.
A recent decision by the State of Illinois to sell the Damen Silos and 23.4-acre riverfront site to a buyer with plans for demolition makes them highly threatened. The buyer’s asphalt plant in the heart of the Pershing Road Central Manufacturing District, has become an acute environmental challenge confronting the McKinley Park community. Despite the highly noxious odors generated from asphalt production, the MAT Asphalt plant began operations in 2018 without any public meetings or public notice from elected officials or regulatory agencies and has been operating on an expired permit since 2019.
Chicagoans should not lose one of the last monumental landmarks to its agricultural industrial past. We recommend the consideration of the historic Damen Grain Silos as part of a larger public amenity and reuse vision, which could include a much-needed riverfront environmental restoration and recreational opportunities for nearby communities living on Southwest Side, Chicagoans across the city, and tourists.