Lots of landmark news today. Mayor Daley promised $500K to rebuild Pilgrim Baptist Church, the landmark Adler & Sullivan house of worship destroyed by fire a year and a week ago. Fundraising for the small congregation with a new pastor is slow, and the big questions about what it is going to look like aren’t being answered but it seems they are tacking toward a creative rebuilding within the original Adler & Sullivan walls. The architect, Frank Christopher Lee, suggested a range of options from reconstruction to something “unexpected but really nice” within the old walls. Put your money on the unexpected – unless you have a spare $12 million for the reconstruction.
The Segal Estate plan was revealed today, and developer Orren Pickell took all the credit for the sensitive plan to save the original house and coach house, build 11 new homes and maintain the great majority of the Jens Jensen-designed landscape. Truth be told, it was Landmarks Illinois that did the deal in a federal courtroom. But hey, that is part of the job of saving landmarks – letting other people take the credit. We do it with politicians all the time (and so do other advocacy organizations).
Barry Byrne said “True architecture is humble” (Mies actually said almost the same thing, believe it or not) and I would offer that true advocacy is humble. Take the win and pass the credit. The reality is that architecture and preservation are a lot like filmmaking – you can honor the director/architect/advocate but the reality is a five-minute roll of credits. The big wins in preservation usually involve everyone: National Trust and Landmarks Illinois and Preservation Chicago and politicians and developers and lots of citizen activists.
Meanwhile, out in the bucolic People’s Republic of Oak Park, the ongoing debate over the Colt Building and “Downtown Oak Park” continues with a series of community meetings. This has been a fascinating story, beginning with a hack plan in 2004 that called for the demolition of half of the downtown and led to the Village Board being kicked out (on account of cupidity and stupidity) a new plan being crafted that only demolished two buildings, and then the new, radical preservationist Village Board trashing the consensus plan in a quixotic bid to save the Colt Building, based on a fetching image of the building, drawn prior to its 1931 completion. It never quite looked like that. They’ve run the numbers a half dozen times now and the Colt is a $5 -$10 million loser no matter how you slice it, so the Village Board has backed off a little, and now the radicals have lost their majority. Endless fun.
BTW, after 100spam days in the summer I tinkered with this blog and even though it seems to me that comments should be allowed, I have heard that it isn’t working. Please KMP.