Thompson Center, ‘Green Book’ sites named to annual list of Illinois’ most endangered historic places

The James R. Thompson Center and Green Books have been named Illinois’ Most Endangered Locations by an organization dedicated to the promotion and preservation of historic sites across the state.

Nationwide there are a total of nine culturally significant places that Landmarks Illinois, which published its annual list on Wednesday, classified as “architecturally threatened”. Four are in the Chicago area.

Landmarks Illinois’ goal in publishing this list is to draw attention to historic buildings that it believes need saving.

“Communities are passionate about their historic and culturally significant places, but too often the resources to preserve and sustain them are lacking,” said Bonnie McDonald, president and CEO of Landmarks Illinois, in a statement. “Our Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois in 2021 show the demand for creative solutions, partnerships and incentives to give places from our past a chance for reuse and renewed life. Landmark Illinois prides itself on providing a resource for those trying to overcome these barriers. “

This is the fourth time in a row that the Thompson Center has compiled the list. Governor JB Pritzker launched the state building earlier this week, calling on developers to submit proposals for the downtown location that could require more than $ 500 million in repairs.

The statewide Green Book pages are taken from The Negro Motorist Green Book, a travel guide published in the Jim Crow area that, according to Landmarks Illinois, listed places that offered African American travelers safe accommodations and services.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation said little was known about the vast majority of Green Book sites that were black-owned or known as non-discriminatory places like restaurants, hotels, and private homes. Many have been demolished over the years.

The Illinois Landmarks List does not mention any particular Illinois Green Book location by name or address. Many were located near Route 66, according to a 2018 report by Fever River Research, a Springfield-based cultural resource management company. Springfield had 22 properties in various editions of the Negro Motorist’s Green Book, it says the report. Two notable places that still stand are the Bernie Eskridge Tourist House and the Helen Robbins Tourist House, the report said.

Another Chicago location in need of restoration is the Altgeld Gardens store building and School Buildings C and E, designed by John C. Christiansen and built in 1944 and 1950, respectively. Illinois Landmark said both buildings need “major redevelopment”.

Suburbs on the list include Klas Restaurant in Cicero and Scott Foresman Headquarters in Glenview. The Klas Restaurant is an important piece of history for the Czech community of Chicagoland, and the Scott Foresman Headquarters is an award-winning mid-century modern design by architectural firm Perkins & Will, according to Landmarks Illinois.

Both places are for sale and are unprotected. Scott Foresman is being “marketed as a residential redevelopment area,” according to the organization.

Other locations on the list include the Illinois Terminal Interurban Station in Decatur, the Broadview Hotel in East St. Louis, the Havana Water Tower in Mason County, and the main office building of the Joliet Steel Mill in Will County.

For more information on this year’s websites, please visit http://www.landmarks.org/.

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