“A house in the Austin neighborhood built by a Chicagoan who, prior to the Civil War, hosted anti-slavery meetings in his downtown performance hall is being nominated for landmark status by its longtime owners.
“Jim Bowers and Cynthia Weaver, who have owned the Seth Warner house on Central Avenue since the mid-1980s, will join preservationists and city officials in nominating the home, built in 1869, at a Commission on Chicago Landmarks meeting Oct. 7. It’s the beginning of a landmarking process that will take three to six months.
“Seth Warner, a blacksmith, owned Warner’s Hall, which on Oct. 6, 1853, to Oct. 8, 1853, was the site of the First Convention of the Colored Citizens of the State of Illinois. At the convention, members resolved to fight Illinois’ Black Law, which prohibited free Black Americans from coming to Illinois for longer than 10 days. They also resolved that ‘we most especially recommend to our people throughout the state to become owners of land, to build houses and cultivate the soil, as the surest means of making themselves and families independent and respectable.’
“Frederick Douglass spoke at the convention, according to historical research that Preservation Chicago and the Chicago Department of Planning & Development prepared for the nomination. The text of Douglass’s comments is not known, but it’s likely to have been along the same lines of his speech a few weeks later in downstate Princeton, where he said, ‘You must abolish slavery or be abolished by slavery.’
“Warner’s Hall stood on the site of the present-day Daley Center, around Clark and Randolph streets, according to Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago. The hall hosted an 1854 meeting of Free Soil Party supporters to oppose the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and an 1863 meeting to encourage African-American men to join the Union Army, according to the groups’ research.
“Because Warner’s Hall was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire 150 years ago this week, the Austin house that Seth Warner built ‘is all that remains of the footprint of this man,’ Miller said.
“The house has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1982, before the couple bought the house, but has not been put up for city landmarking before “because nobody asked,” Bowers said. Miller met him recently in meetings about other subjects and eventually suggested he get the house, the oldest in Austin, landmarked.
“If the commission approves on Oct. 7, the house will get preliminary landmark status and go through a series of meetings, firth with the commission, then the City Council committee on zoning and landmarks, and finally the full City Council.” (Rodkin, Crain’s Chicago Business, 10/7/21)
Abolitionist’s Austin home goes up for landmark status; The house was built by Seth Warner, whose downtown Chicago music hall was the site of anti-slavery events, including one where Frederick Douglass spoke, Dennis Rodkin, Crain’s Chicago Business, 10/7/21