Posts Tagged ‘American Express’

Vikings Win

October 12, 2007

on leong merch

Originally uploaded by vincusses.

Well, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and American Express web contest to restore Chicago area landmarks is over and the Vikings ran away with it. Actually, the runaway rabbit winner was the Pui Tak Center in Chinatown, built in 1924 as the On Leong Merchants Association, which led the voting by a wide margin from Day One of the contest. Naturally, as a prominent Sinophile, I am well pleased with the outcome. So why did I say the Vikings won? Because the Viking Ship managed to finish second, fending off a strong challenge from Von Steuben High School? No, because Vikings finished first and second if you count the architects of On Leong: Michaelsen and Rognstad.

Von Steuben held on to third and Unity Temple – one of the most architecturally significant buildings IN THE WORLD – managed fourth. Tailed by Robie House throughout the voting, the Peabody Estate Mayslake in Oak Brook made a stretch run to finish fith, pushing Robie into sixth and Louis Sullivan’s Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral into seventh. A big surprise was the late surge by the Spring Grove Fish Hatchery (?) which apparently benefitted from the advocacy of Rep. Melissa Bean. By the end of this thing it was taking 2000 votes to get a single percentage point, so even the herculean efforts of SAICers to get out the vote for the Roger Brown Studio could only serve to keep it in the top 15.

Well, l I am off to Racine to the Barry Byrne church there for part of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy Conference. So much to do….


More Partners Progress

September 12, 2007

Well, today’s surprise in the voting for is Von Steuben High School. Somebody must have gotten an alumni list – or better, a student list and those high schoolers are flooding their votes in and have kicked it up into second place. A more internet-savvy generation might have figured out how to network more votes. Chinatown is holding firm in first place, and however they are voting – it is working – they have maintained a several point lead over the others since Day 1. The Frank Lloyd Wright buildings in Oak Park are also holding up, likely benefitting from the fact that they are the most well-known – a triumph of sorts for traditional art history. I am glad to see the South Side Community Arts Center making a comeback, although of course a bit disappointed that Pleasant Home and Roger Brown have dipped in the standings. I am still surprised at the Viking Ship – I suppose it got the most press on the Endangered List last spring, but I still can’t figure how it is getting all those votes. Aurora is also holding firm, and I am glad to see Holy Trinity and Humboldt Park rising. I am worried that the Great Lakes Building needs more support in order to convince the Navy that it is worth preserving. It seems that “community landmarks” are doing better now, although I suppose you could argue that high-style architecture is doing well, what with the Frank Lloyd Wrights and the rising Louis Sullivan. Almost a month left – it will be fun to watch!

Partners Progress

September 8, 2007

Well, we are two days into the Partners in Preservation voting (see post above and vote at and time for a quick crit of the results so far – with over a month to go.

On Leong/Pui Tak in Chinatown has the early lead thanks to an aggressive mareting campaign among members and friends – and hey, it is worthy – some of the best terra cotta in town. They started off with 16% and still lead at 12%.

Lisa Stone and all my friends at SAIC are doing a good job keeping Roger Brown in the Top 10 (currently 8th), and Frank Heitzman and Laura Thompson have managed to get Pleasant Home in the top 10 as well.

The striking thing to me about the results: Traditional high-style architecture is drawing the votes – Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple and Robie House are Numbers 2 and 5, and the Cultural Center is number 4. These are buildings that were the subject of preservation interest and advocacy in the 1950s, the 1970s, the 1980s and again today. A similar argument could be made for the architecturally stunning if less famous Humboldt Park Receptory and Pleasant Home. I guess I was expecting m0re support for “community” landmarks like the South Side Community Arts Center, Independence Park Bungalow or Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox (which thanks to Louis Sullivan could also be in the high style category). The GAR Hall in Aurora at Number 6 is the highest in this category, and props to Homan Square for bringing Lawndale up to Number 11 – how did the West Siders top the two South Side African American sites? On the other hand, High Modernist architecture – represented by Building 42 at great Lakes Naval Center – is lingering at Number 18.

And then there is the Viking Ship at Number 3! This is I believe the only one from Landmarks Illinois’ current Most Endangered List, so perhaps the earlier publicity helped. The only sculpture, the Fountain of Time, is Number 10, although its size and construction make it arguably a building.

Predictions? I think Chinatown will hold serve for at least a while, and my gut says the Wright buildings will also persevere. Roger Brown may dip as SAIC students and faculty get into the semester, although that could have the opposite effect as more people visit the site may keep it in the top 10. I think that those sites regularly open to the public, like Pleasant Home, Unity Temple, Robie House and the Cultural Center, will have the advantage in the coming weeks, making it harder for places like Great Lakes Building 42 and the ABLA Animal Sculptures, currently in storage. to compete. We should see a shift in standings after the open houses next weekend. Stay tuned.

Partners in Preservation

September 6, 2007

No picture today because I can’t post all 25.

American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, where I serve as a Trustee, just announced Partners in Preservation, a project that will give away $1 million to historic landmarks in the Chicago area. The project allows YOU to participate by voting for your favorite site from some 25 eligible sites in the Greater Chicago area, simply by logging on to In true Chicago tradtion, you can vote often – every day from now until October 10. The top vote-getter is guaranteed of funding, but a blue-ribbon committee (where I also serve) will decide if other sites get funding and how much.

Now, the rest of today’s blog will consist of disclaimers of connections that I have to the various sites. As I joked with several people, I am only pushing for the 21 sites I am personally connected with. I just pulled that number out of the air, so let’s go through the list and see what my conflicts are:

ABLA Animal Sculptures – I have been working with the Chicago Public Housing Museum and Driehaus Foundation to put together a museum in the surviving Jane Addams Federal housing building from the 1930s – these Edgar Miller sculptures were part of the same site, and are now in a conservator’s studio not far from my house.

Bohemian National Cemetery – I actually can’t think of a direct connection here, although the project is to restore the prominent water tower, and SAIC did a Water Tower class with Neal Vogel and Rolf Achilles last year.

Chicago Cultural Center – The only downtown site, I go there always and Neal and Rolf could tell you all about the stained glass. SAIC students also worked closely with Barbara Koenen and Tim Samuelson of the City last Spring, who office in the building.

Fountain of Time – Bill Latoza brought students to work on this in past years. and the contact is our SAIC Historic Preservation alum Michael Fus. I always bring tours there too.

Grand Army of the Republic Memorial, Aurora. Again, an SAIC HPRES alum is the contact (Jan Mangers) and I have visited it – cool site in a cool, underappreciated historic city.

Great Lakes Naval Station Building 42 – I am also on the Board of Landmarks Illinois, which has been instrumental in convincing the Navy to save this Modernist treasure – I hope to make the open house on the 15th/

Grosse Pointe Lighthouse, Evanston – Charlie Pipal’s Physical Documentation class did HABS drawings of this site in 2003.

Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Cathedral – Nice to see Father John Adamcio this morning – Holy Trinity asked me to speak at their centennial back in 2003.

Homan Square Power Plant – I did walk through the whole Sears complex back in the early 90s with Charles Shaw and Jim Peters’ Planning Studio class focused on Lawndale two years ago.

Humboldt Park Stables and Receptory – I gave a little speech in this building over a decade ago with the Governor’s wife (Edgar) and I lobbied the Park District in 1994 on behalf of this building with one of the Puerto Rican museum activists. I was also walking my dog in the park the day after the arson fire that nearly destroyed it in 1992.

Independence Park Bungalow – At least one SAIC alum works at the Chicago Bungalow Association and several more have interned there, although I was not aware of this particular building.

International Museum of Surgical Science – I worked very hard to landmark this building around 1990 – even met Fred Countiss, who grew up there. Also wrote up the museum for the Michelin Guide in 1996.

On Leong Merchants Association Building/Pui Tak – no direct connection, despite all of my China work – we did have a student exhibit in the Chinatown Library two years ago, and I am sure I testified in favor of its designation as a Chicago Landmark.

Peabody Estate, Oak Brook – Neal Vogel led another great Restoration Methods class there this summer, and I spoke there a few years back thanks to Charlie Pipal.

Petersen Farmstead, McHenry – No connection, although I have heard of it.

Pleasant Home, Oak Park. Lots here. Charlie Pipal’s class did HABS drawings here in 2001, I have served on the Restoration Committee for five years or more, I speak AT LEAST once a year, have done student and faculty retreats, workshops and parties there. It is also one of two finalist within two blocks of my house.

Quinn Chapel AME. Charlie’s class did HABS drawings here in 2000 and won a Peterson Prize (Honorable Mention) for them, as well as an honor from the church itself. Have toured it a few times, most recently at Landmarks Illinois’ Annual Meeting last year.

Ragdale Foundation, Lake Forest. Our faculty member Anne Sullivan is in charge of the restoration here and there are numerous SAIC connections to this artists’ retreat.

Robie House, Chicago. Oh great, only one of the most important buildings IN THE WORLD. I saw it out of my dormitory window for a year while in college, have led numerous tours there, have had many students do internships there and our own Don Kalec is on the restoration committee. I’m a member.

Roger Brown Study Collection. Yow. I am on the Roger Brown Study Collection Steering Committee, I have students interning there or doing projects there almost every single semester, our students did a restoration of the storefront in the summer of 2006, our alum Lisa Stone runs the place and I have brought probably seven different classes there, exhibited work there when it was 1926 gallery, organized an undergraduate show there in 2004, have had several student receptions there, several SAIC faculty have worked on aspects of the restoration – the list goes on. My favorite thing is the medicine cabinet, followed closely by the dishwasher.

South Side Community Arts Center – Felicity had a piece in the Urban Renewal show there this past Spring (see blog on April 4, 2007) and I have visited several times. I also vividly remember the Chicago Landmarks designation hearing 15 years ago when several women recalled Eleanor Roosevelt showing up for the dedication in 1940.

Spring Grove Fish Hatchery. No connection. Looking forward to learning about this one.

Unity Temple, Oak Park. Another long list, where to start? I’ve spoken here, brought many, many tour groups here, attended loads of events and concerts from my sister’s wedding to Ed Lifson and Tim Samuelson’s part of the Breaking the Box series this past year. My kids have spent more time here than at any other site on the list – including Alexandra’s 7th birthday last year – her idea, complete with Froebel block workshop. Oh, and it is ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT BUILDINGS IN THE WORLD. You can sit in there forever and never get bored – that is living architecture, man, it doesn’t stop for a second. Geoff Baer interviewed me there a year or two ago for a Channel 11 piece on churches in Chicago. It is the closest to my house and I see it daily.

Viking Ship, Geneva. I remember this thing from its Lincoln Park days, and Charlie Pipal did a cool seminar a year ago on the Columbian Exposition and several students documented this 1890s replica. Very cool. It was also on the Landmarks Illinois’ 10 Most Endangered List this year.

Von Steuben High School. No connection, except I saw this building tons over the last quarter century because a close friend from 1984 to the present lives on the block south. SAIC facutly Bill Latoza is probably working on it because he does so much with CPS.

So, that’s it. I guess my number was wrong, it looks like I have some connection to 23 of the 25. It would probably only take a phone call to find the connection to the other two. Vote for your favorite every day. I will!