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Preservation group: Uptown Theatre, manufacturing district ‘endangered’

Uptown Theatre | Sun-Times file photo

Uptown Theatre | Sun-Times file photo

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Updated: May 3, 2014 6:21AM



Chicago’s Uptown Theatre, the central manufacturing district at Ashland Avenue and Pershing Road, and two corner commercial buildings at Halsted Avenue and Willow Street, are among the Ten Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois, according to a state preservation group.

The three city sites made the 19th annual list announced Tuesday by Landmarks Illinois.

“The sites named to the list are all exceptionally important to not only local residents, but the local economy,” the nonprofit’s president, Bonnie McDonald, said. “By calling attention to the potential for their reuse and revitalization, we are encouraging job creation and economic development across Illinois — something everyone can support.”

The 2014 list includes:

◆ Uptown Theatre, 4816 N. Broadway, one of the country’s largest and grandest movie palaces in the country, closed since 1981 and deteriorating. The theatre is a linchpin for planning of an “Uptown Music District” city officials want to see developed. Redevelopment would cost $50 million to $70 million, Landmarks Illinois says. This marks the fourth time the Uptown Theatre has made the ‘endangered list.’

◆Central Manufacturing District, Ashland Avenue and Pershing Road, the city’s largest planned manufacturing area, founded in 1892. With the decline of manufacturing jobs in Chicago and preference for new modern facilities, the massive, multi-story historic buildings are considered antiquated and inefficient, and at risk of demolition, Landmarks Illinois says.

◆Halsted and Willow Gateway, 1732 and 1800 N. Halsted, a largely intact, late 19th-century group of commercial buildings at the intersection of Halsted Avenue and Willow Street. Serving as a gateway to the historic Sheffield neighborhood, the buildings are threatened by a large-scale redevelopment at the northwest corner of the intersection and a future proposal at the southwest corner that will destroy the neighborhood’s historic character, Landmarks Illinois says.

◆Camp Algonquin, a 116-acre camp in unincorporated McHenry County that is one of only four camps built in the United States during the “Fresh Air in the Country” movement of the late-1800s. Established in 1907 as a fresh air camp on 20 acres along the Fox River, its grounds and building sites were laid out by famed landscape architect Jens Jensen in 1910. Purchased in 2004 by the McHenry County Conservation District, the camp ceased operations in 2011, with many of its 47 buildings in disrepair and slated for demolition.

◆McAuley Schoolhouse, West Chicago, built in 1913, and the last functioning one-room school in Illinois when it closed in 1992. West Chicago School District 33 is responsible for the structure’s security, but the building, though sturdy, is in a state of disrepair with no plans for its future use or disposition. Its location on the edge of Roosevelt Road — a busy four lane highway — puts the school at risk as the area continues to see commercial development, Landmarks Illinois says.

◆Hamilton Primary School, Otterville, which opened in 1835 as the nation’s first free and integrated school. The current building, built in 1873 using most of the original building’s limestone, provided education for all Otterville-area students until it closed in 1971. In 1982, Otter Creek Township transferred operations and maintenance to the Otter Creek Historical Society, which continues to open the school for tours, festivals, and local events, but is in need of funds for critical repairs.

◆Hotel Belleville in Belleville, a prominent, 1931 Art Deco building on Belleville’s Public Square, targeted for demolition by the City of Belleville if a viable rehabilitation plan isn’t secured this year. Designed by the St. Louis firm of Manske & Bartling, the hotel was sold in 1962 to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Belleville for use as a retirement home, then purchased by the city in 2010.

◆Old Millstadt Water Tower, at Madison and Breese Streets in Millstadt (St. Clair County), built in 1931 near the town’s main intersection and visible for several miles in all directions. Targeted for demolition, the Tower today is one of the few remaining “Tin Man” style towers in Illinois, as many have been lost in recent years to deterioration and demolition, Landmarks Illinois says.

◆Robertson Building in Virginia, constructed in 1897 and an anchor of downtown Virginia and the Cass County Courthouse Square is now threatened by damage from a major roof collapse that left sections of the building structurally unsound. It housed the Dime Store for most of the 20th century and is notable for its corner tower, red brick façade, and sandstone details, Landmarks Illinois says. The nonprofit Virginia’s Square One, Inc., is fundraising to try to save it.

◆U.S. Marine Hospital in Galena, built in 1859 by the U.S. Treasury Department and currently for sale as part of 11 acres of land, currently used for livestock grazing. Constructed as part of a nationally significant federal health care initiative for U.S. sailors, the hospital is one of only two pre-Civil War marine hospitals remaining on the inland waterway system. The other, in Kentucky, has been designated a National Historic Landmark.

Landmarks Illinois this year added the Federal Historic Tax Credit Program to its list as “a special 11th designation,” threatened with extinction under the draft Tax Reform Act of 2014 released in February, which eliminates the FHTC program the group calls the backbone of historic preservation efforts in Illinois and the nation.

Since the program’s inception in 1995, 58 sites have been saved, 45 have been demolished or substantially altered, 77 are still threatened, and 15 have a rehab pending or underway.

mihejirika@suntimes.com

Twitter: @Maudlynei



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