THREATENED: Urgent Advocacy Efforts Are Underway to Save Superior Street Rowhouses from Looming Demolition including Downzoning Request from Alderman Reilly, “On-The-Ground” Neighborhood Organizing, and a Petition Drive with over 3,000 Signatures!

42, 44 & 46 East Superior Street Rowhouses, Photo Credit: Taylor Moore / Block Club Chicago
42, 44 & 46 East Superior Street Rowhouses, Photo Credit: Taylor Moore / Block Club Chicago
Etching from Andreas’s History of Chicago showing the 4th Presbyterian Church that stood east of the rowhousess until 1914 when it was replaced by the extant Methodist Book Publishing House. The houses are visible in the image. Image Credit: History of Chicago; From the earliest period to the present time, by A.T. Andreas, 1885
42, 44 & 46 East Superior Street Rowhouse Demolition Delay Notification , Photo Credit: City of Chicago

Unless immediate steps are taken, these three 1880’s-era rowhouses will be demolished shortly after the 90-Day Demolition Delay hold expires on December 12, 2018. These authentic, beautiful, and charming historic Chicago rowhouses will be bulldozed to create a vacant lot. We are also highly concerned about the adjacent seven-story Art Deco limestone building and historic four-story red brick Giordano’s building!

In a little over a week, over 3,000 people have signed a petition to save the Superior Rowhouses from demolition!

Preservation Chicago applauds 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly for his strong leadership and his proactive steps to protect these significant Chicago historic buildings against demolition. Alderman Reilly has taken the important preliminary steps to request that the City Council downzone the Superior Rowhouses properties.

“Downzoning is the only tool at his disposal ‘in order to essentially get the developer’s attention and ask them to voluntarily extend the demolition deadline so we can look at those properties with (the Commission on Chicago) Landmarks and the city to determine whether or not they need to be landmarked and preserved,’ Reilly said. ‘It’s not intended to be a permanent zoning classification, but I needed to use this to slow them down a bit and have them come back to the table and give us some more time to look at those buildings.” (Ecker, Crain’s, 1/11/18)

Preservation Chicago is actively working “on-the-ground” with neighborhood organizations and other stakeholders to generate support for a Designated Chicago Landmark District. Preservation Chicago researchers are hard at work discovering and assembling as much historic material as possible about these and the few other similar surviving buildings in the neighborhood.

Preservation Chicago STRONGLY OPPOSES THE DEMOLITION of these three, architecturally significant, orange-rated rowhouses at 42, 44 and 46 East Superior dating from the 1870’s and 1880’s. The adjacent seven-story Art Deco limestone building and historic four-story red brick Giordano’s building are also endangered. The three 1880’s-era rowhouses at 42 E. Superior Street (George A. Tripp House), 44 E. Superior Street and 46 E. Superior Street (Hennessey Houses) were added to the 90-Day Demolition Delay List on September 12, 2018. The George A. Tripp House at 42 E. Superior Street has been the long-time home to Sunny Side Up Brunch and Coffee Shop.

Perhaps the developer’s strategy is that the urban blight created from a vacant lot will help ease the process to push through a future plan for a large parking garage and glass-box tower on the site. We have no specific knowledge in this instance, however there are many examples of other developers and owners who have strategically demolished significant historic buildings prior to requesting or receiving approval for new development or prior to listing properties for sale.

“These are all really wonderful buildings and they could make part of a landmark district,” said Ward Miller of Preservation Chicago. (Koziarz, 3/14/17)

“To ensure the protection of these buildings, Preservation Chicago is hoping that area residents will help push for the creation of a new landmark district. This is McCormickville. This is where the McCormick family lived before and after the Great Chicago Fire. And with the continued demolition of other shorter, older buildings in the area, there are only a handful of the original McCormickville buildings left. We need to value every inch of space where there are historic buildings that tell the story of the neighborhood.” Said Ward Miller (Curbed Chicago, 12/8/16)

“If these three orange-rated townhouses are demolished, much of the scale and character of the Near-North Side, Gold Coast and McCormickville District will be lost. These smaller buildings add a distinct character, quality, craftsmanship, history and elegance to the community, which is close to being completely lost to overdevelopment in the vicinity. In addition, these buildings also provide unique opportunities for small businesses and provide “an envelope” for all sorts of creative things to happen from within these historic structures. They really do encourage unique small businesses, and add a livability quality to the community. At one time, there were many such small elegant restaurants and shops housed in these types of buildings, from the Chicago River to Oak Street. As a matter of fact, it was often these beautifully crafted buildings that initially gave Oak Street its unusual character and success. Some of those buildings still exist, but they are becoming more and more rare. Once they’re gone, they’re gone forever. ” said Ward Miller.

“New York City also has groups of these types of buildings on several of its side streets on both the Upper East Side and the Upper West Side, some which comprise large Landmark Districts and they give that city a certain quality as well. Collectively, we often don’t appreciate those kinds of buildings in Chicago and their reuse of fine quality former residences in that same way or on that same scale as other cities like New York and Boston, and that’s tragic too!”

The twin houses at 44-46 E. Superior were built sometime between 1871 and 1876 as a pair of attached single-family homes. The residents of 44 E. Superior were Richard Hennessey (1845-1920) and his brothers. Richard was a building contractor along with his brother Patrick Martin Hennessey with the firm of Hennessey Bros. His brother Peter J. was a distiller and Thomas Hennessey was soda water manufacturer.

The other half of the building at 46 E. Superior was occupied by the family of Michael W. Kerwin (1835-unknown) who owned a liquor business. It appears likely that the Hennessey brothers played a role in building the double house, if not fully designing it. The Hennessey Brothers did work during the early 1900s with several notable architects, so it is possible that the double house was designed by a notable architect. It is likely that the Hennessey’s owned and built the building. The house at 42 E. Superior was likely built around 1880-1885 for George A. Tripp and his family. The architect for this house has not yet been identified.

Newly uncovered historic research indicates that two nearby residential buildings at the southwest corner of Superior and Rush Streets were designed by the notable Chicago architect Henry Ives Cobb. Henry Ives Cobb was a principal of the firm Cobb & Frost which is better known for designing numerous important Chicago landmark buildings including the Chicago Athletic Association, the Newberry Library, the Chicago Historical Society Building (Excalibur), the Chicago Varnish Company Building (Harry Caray’s Restaurant), the old Chicago Federal Building, the Ransom-Cable House, the Potter Palmer “Castle”, and many of the historic building on the University of Chicago campus.

716 N. Rush Street was Cobb’s own personal residence and 720 N. Rush was the home of William Blair, of the William Blair Financial Advisors and a relative of the McCormick family. These buildings could be combined with the Superior Street rowhouses as part of a new “McCormickville” Landmark District. 720 N. Rush Street is currently the site of Rosebud Restaurant. (Special thanks to Matt Wicklund for this historic research)

In April 2017, 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly rejected a proposal by Symmetry Development to build a 60-story tower on the northeast corner of Superior Street and Wabash Avenue. Alderman Reilly opposed the development in part because of the widespread community opposition due to the traffic issues it would cause and issues of preservation. This victory was only temporary and the developer is moving forward with its plans to bulldoze and clear the site.

At the public meeting held by Alderman Reilly in March 2017 regarding the proposed development, Ward Miller’s passionate statement in support of preservation was met with an enthusiastic round of applause from the over 300 neighbors and residents in attendance.

Preservation Chicago strongly encourages the City of Chicago and Alderman Reilly to withhold releasing the Demolition Delay Hold or Demolition permit until AFTER the public approval process for the new development has been completed. There are many examples, the most notorious being Block 37, in which significant time passed between the demolition of the existing historic buildings and the new construction broke ground.

Preservation Chicago, along with many residents in several nearby high-rise buildings, are encouraging the preservation of these structures and the creation of a Chicago Landmark District of about dozen buildings in the area, most of which are orange-rated and have already been considered highly significant. A new “McCormickville” Landmark District comprised of the handful of remaining historic buildings (less than a dozen) would be a powerful tool to protect this neighborhood’s historic building fabric and strengthen the vibrancy of this community. Preservation Chicago had suggested the “McCormickville” Landmark District to be considered for designation in the past.

Preservation Chicago has been very concerned over the increasing frequency and recent losses of low-rise historic Near North Side buildings, in and around an area established by Cyrus McCormick’s family. As development pressure grows and as surface parking lots are being developed, developers have begun to actively targeting remaining clusters of intact, low-rise, historic buildings as development sites.

“We are at a tipping point,” said Miller, “where the community may become a high-rise canyon, deprived of sunlight, negatively impacting quality of life issues, which [ultimately] may impact the desirability of the community.” (von Buol, Loop North News, 10/24/18)

Additional Reading
Join over 3,000 supporters and Sign the Petition to Save These Victorian Rowhouses from Demolition!

Alderman moves to downzone River North site; Ald. Brendan Reilly yesterday moved to reduce the zoning allowance at 42 and 44-46 E. Superior St., hamstringing a development group, Danny Ecker, Crain’s Chicago Business, 11/1/18

Can preservationists save these River North buildings? 

A New York developer wants to raze two buildings at 42 and 44-46 E. Superior St., where it planned a 60-story condo-hotel tower—until it was rejected by Ald. Brendan Reilly., Alby Gallun, Crain’s Chicago Business, 10/10/18

19th century Superior Street row houses threatened with demolition, Peter von Buol, Loop North News, 10/24/18

Developer Behind Failed High-Rise Plan Moves To Tear Down Historic Row Houses Near Mag Mile… Again;The row houses “add a distinct character, quality, craftsmanship, history and elegance to the community,” preservationists say, Taylor Moore, Block Club Chicago, 10/30/18

River North’s 60-story ‘Carillon’ tower shot down, shorter high-rise still possible, Curbed Chicago, Jay Koziarz, 4/10/17

Rejected! River North’s Tallest Planned Tower Since Trump’s Gets Blocked, DNAinfo Chicago, David Matthews, 4/12/17

Neighbors rebel over proposed 60-story high-rise in Cathedral District, Loop North News, Patrick Butler and Steven Dahlman, 3/15/17

Near North Side residents air opposition to proposed 60-story tower, Chicago Tribune, Gail Marks Jarvis, 3/14/17

Plan for 725-foot River North skyscraper revealed, Curbed Chicago, Jay Koziarz, 3/14/17

Preservationists want a new landmark district in River North, AJ LaTrace, Curbed Chicago, 12/8/16


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here