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Spotlight on the Chicago 7

By Shannon in Arts & Entertainment on Jan 18, 2007 10:00PM

It’s the beginning of the year, and that means it’s time for architectural institution Preservation Chicago to unveil its picks of the seven most endangered buildings in the city, colloquially known as the Chicago 7. We’re always interested to see what buildings, structures or districts the little-organization-that-could deems worthy of its annual list. The finalists:

  • North Avenue Bridge. We mistakenly believed this was the bridge someone asked Chicagoist about last week, but 'tis not the same. That was a bridge spanning the river near Goose Island; this one is the pedestrian footbridge over Lake Shore Drive. Lauded for not obstructing the LSD with vertical uprights, the bridge's days are numbered due to lack of ADA compliance.
  • The Farwell Building, 664 N. Michigan. A recent storm of controversy has surrounded the Farwell, redefining what makes a Chicago landmark. That leads us to the question: We thought the purpose of the Chicago 7 was to get landmark status for buildings and districts, so why is the Farwell on the list? No doubt it’s still in danger, but what more can be done?
  • south side six cornersPilgrim Baptist Church, 3301 S. Indiana. This one surprised us, but in retrospect, it makes sense. Plans have gone ahead for Pilgrim Baptist’s reconstruction, but funding is still severely lacking for restoring the church to its former grandeur. It may also have landmark designation, but its condition merits the awareness.
  • Archer Avenue District, Bridgeport (at right). According to PC’s report, it’s the oldest section of Bridgeport, with architecture dating from the 1880s. Its inclusion sounds more like a perfunctory measure than a dire emergency.
  • Wicker Park Commercial District, Milwaukee from Division to Damen. This strip seems like it’s a bit more endangered than Archer Ave, as Wicker Park is still considered up and coming, and possibly a place for big-box stores to set their footprints. We could be wrong.
  • lathrop homesJulia C. Lathrop Homes, Clybourn and Diversey (at right). PC notes, “The best way to know the Lathrop Homes is to go there and walk through the community.” Traipsing through Sketch City doesn’t sound very inviting to us. To be honest, all we ever marvel at when we pass by (rather speedily, in cars) is the lack of front doors or the prevalence of cops.
  • Rosenwald Apartments, 4618-4646 S. Michigan. Vacant for years, the idyllically-named Michigan Boulevard Garden Apartments played an important part in housing the massive influx of black workers in the 1920s. That’s about all we know about the place.

It’s great to see Preservation Chicago bringing attention to these myriad structures. We know Jonathan Fine gets a lot of press, especially when a disputed building is under the microscope. Still, PC’s track record isn’t all that good when it comes to the Chicago 7. We’re hoping for the best, but will it ultimately do any good?

Archer Avenue courtesy of bridgeportseasoning; Lathrop Homes via Northwestern.