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Soldier Field Might Lose Landmark Status

By Margaret Lyons in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 24, 2004 3:27PM

Soldier Field: Photo, Chicago TribuneThe National Park System Advisory Board's Landmarks Committee unanimously recommended yesterday that Soldier Field be stripped of its status as a National Historic Landmark. The recommendation now lands on the desk of U.S. Interior Secretary Gale Norton, who is expected to make a final decision by the end of the year.

The process of de-designation came up in July, when the Park Service recommended to the advisory board that Soldier Field be demoted. That proposal claims that Soldier Field "no longer retains its historic integrity. ... The futuristic new stadium bowl is visually incompatible with the classical colonnades and the perimeter wall of the historic stadium." Ouch. Carol Ahlgren, an architectural historian for the National Park Service who wrote the initial proposal, believes that, if nothing else, this debate heightens awareness about what National Landmarks are and how special that distinction is.

According to the National Historic Landmarks Program, landmarks are "Nationally significant properties [that] help us understand the history of the Nation and illustrate the nationwide impact of events or persons associated with the property, its architectural type or style, or information potential." They're selected based on several criteria, and the designation is rarely retracted. Soldier Field, on the list as Grant Park Stadium, was made a National Historic Landmark in 1987.

Nothing would really happen to Soldier Field if it lost its landmark designation, other than a loss of prestige associated with the title. Chicagoist's Spidey senses tell us that people aren't really going to Soldier Field for its historical significance, but it would still be kind of embarrassing. Blair Kamin, the Trib's architecture critic, wrote in July that the government should "give Soldier Field the boot."