Friday Filings: Landmarks Ordinance Ruling

"If nothing else, the changes to historic districts and the ordinance should help stop creating 'snob zones,' like Lincoln Park, in the future." Albert Hanna

“If nothing else, the changes to historic districts and the ordinance should help stop creating ‘snob zones,’ like Lincoln Park, in the future.” Albert Hanna

The great big, HUGE news this week in legal matters concerning Historic Preservation is the ruling on Thursday by Illinois appeals court that Chicago’s Landmarks Ordinance is not vague.

This blog post from 2009 was written at the outset of this whole saga. Not only does the post describe the scenario quite clearly, it also lays out the seven very clear standards that are used to determine whether a building can be declared a landmark. These are essentially what Albert Hanna was challenging when he brought the case to court.

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Vintage Homes in Ukrainian Village

Louis Sullivan's Holy Trinity Orthodox Church in Chicago's Ukrainian Village neighborhood. image source: flickr user swanksalot

Louis Sullivan’s Holy Trinity Orthodox Church in Chicago’s Ukrainian Village neighborhood. image source: flickr user swanksalot

The Ukrainian Village neighborhood on Chicago’s near northwest side is hanging on to some of their older homes, however, each year a wave of new properties are built. Many of the new residences lack the craftsmanship and working-class feel of the neighborhood.

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Lincoln Square: Must Have Babies

Image courtesy of flickr user darrowwest

Image courtesy of flickr user darrowwest

If you have spent any time in the Lincoln Square neighborhood over the past few years you might have noticed the overwhelming number of baby strollers and young families the area has attracted. Farmer’s Markets, German Festivals and quiet streets make Lincoln Square a great place to raise a family.

Giddings Plaza, the area just south of Lawrence Avenue where Lincoln Avenue angles one-way to the south, contains unique shops and eateries such as Gene’s Sausage Shop, Chicago Brauhaus, Merz Apathocary and Huettenbar.

Photo courtesy of flickr user John Kannenberg

Photo courtesy of flickr user John Kannenberg

Lincoln Square hangs on to its identity as a place where German immagrants settled in the late 1800s through much of its architecture, public art and businesses. Many of the businesses are family-owned and offer a local, non-chain option that help to create a strong sense of community.

Image courtesy of flickr user RTC1

Image courtesy of flickr user RTC1

The enormous Welles Park offers space for sports, concerts and festivals in the summertime while the Sulzer Library offers somewhere to hunker down on cold winter days to read or borrow media.

The Old Town School of Folk Music just finished a new building in the neighborhood last year and offers classes to aspiring musicians young and old in a laid-back setting.

With a variety of single-family homes with yards and garages on alleys, the neighborhood is well suited for raising children. The area is also far enough away from the city that you can easily find a peaceful spot to relax.

So what does it cost to own in Lincoln Square? Well, a single-family detached home – the ones with the yard in the back and a garage on the alley – have held steady at an average sale price of right around $900,000 for the last twelve months. Condo sales in this neighborhood for the same period have had an average sale price of right around $339,000.

The Rockwell Brown Line stop is one of the few ground-level stops in the city.  source

The Rockwell Brown Line stop is one of the few ground-level stops in the city.

Since the neighborhood is near the end of the Brown Line, Lincoln Square commuters can get on at Western or Rockwell Avenue and usually get a seat for a relaxing ride into the Loop. The commute that you would experience from this neighborhood gives the same feeling that living in the neighborhood does – relaxed, quiet and peaceful – one of the best in the city.

Friday Filings: The Value of Historic Preservation cont…

What value does the field of Historic Preservation have to society? Education. The act of preserving history is done in an attempt to educate future generations about the people who came before them, the places they built, the structures they worshiped in and the sites of important events.

source: flickr user Aaron Plewke

source: flickr user Aaron Plewke

Education is something that the field of Historic Preservation hinges on. If people don’t know the goals of the field they will easily dismiss it as a hobby of the well-to-dos. Many people don’t realize how democratic the field is and how important it has become as a planning tool and an educational resource.

Vast measures were taken to preserve Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House in 2003. This site embodies Mies’ modern ideas and visiting the site can provide an experience that can not be replicated by text books, images or videos and are a valuable resource to architecture and other design students. If you haven’t been, you must go!

The field of Historic Preservation is quickly being discovered by many to have personal value as well. Learning the skills necessary to restore and maintain buildings can require a broad range of  talents. Skilled labor is fulfilling and rewarding work. The American College of the Building Arts has been cranking out graduates versed in iron, wood and trowel trades for years now. Further education in architecture, engineering, physics and chemistry are all required for the most complex of preservation projects.

One of the best groups doing some of the most technical work in the field are Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc. They provided the expertise necessary to move the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse 2,900 feet from its original location in order to rescue it from threatening coastal erosion. Over the course of twenty three days they were able to move the lighthouse, undisturbed, from the place it had sat since 1870 to an area where it could exist for another 100+ years.

source: flickr user craigmac1000

source: flickr user craigmac1000

It is also a lot of fun to restore buildings, rebuild elements that are discovered in historic photographs and explore new building styles and techniques.

What are some of your favorite preservation projects? What historic sites speak to you and have had a lasting impact on you? What are some historic sites that do particularly well at interpreting our past and telling the important stories of those who came before us?

I Speak Vintage would love to hear from you.

Gold Coast: A Story About the Value of Quality of Life

Frank Lloyd Wright and Louise Sullivan's only collaboration for a residence in the world, the Charnley- Persky house shows elements from Sullivan's past designs while giving a glimpse into Frank Lloyd Wright's future. As one of Chicago's most important buildings architecturally, the building is fittingly home to the Society for Architectural Historians today. http://www.sah.org/about-sah/charnley-persky-house Image courtesy of flicr user  karaeo

As one of Chicago’s most important buildings architecturally, the Charnley-Persky House is fittingly home to the Society for Architectural Historians today.
Image courtesy of flicr user karaeo

The Gold Coast is an area of Chicago that is just about as well located as any urban dweller could imagine being. With the lake in close proximity to the east and great shopping and restaurants to the south, the historic neighborhood has something for everyone. There are almost endless experiences to be had on Michigan Avenue and along the river. The lakefront bike path is a connector to great places for exercising, relaxing and people watching.

Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan’s only collaboration for a residence in the world, the Charnley- Persky house shows elements from Sullivan’s past designs while giving a glimpse into Frank Lloyd Wright’s future.

This historic home on the 800 block of N. Dearborn recently sold for $1.6M.

This historic home on the 800 block of N. Dearborn recently sold for $1.6M.

This 4-story limestone beauty on E. Elm recently sold for $2.45M.

This 4-story limestone beauty on E. Elm recently sold for $2.45M.

Large estates centered on Astor Street and the surrounding blocks were built just as Lake Shore Drive was extending north past North Avenue to Oak Street. The attractions that brought folks to the area then, the green space and beaches along the lake shore, remain today and have continued to drive up the value of the historic properties in the Gold Coast neighborhood. The area was settled not long after the Great Chicago Fire by some of the city’s wealthiest families who moved up from Prairie Avenue on the south side, the second neighborhood settled by the city’s most affluent. This third wave of settlement by upper-upper class Chicagoans saw the building of many large mansions in what was at that time open green space.  The Potter Palmer Mansion was built on Lake Shore Drive, however, it was demolished in 1951 to be replaced with one of the many highrises along Lake Shore Drive today.

Residence of Mr. Potter Palmer, Chicago, a 1900 photochrom print of the Palmer Mansion on Lake Shore Drive source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Residence_of_Mr._Potter_Palmer,_Chicago.jpg

Residence of Mr. Potter Palmer, Chicago, a 1900 photochrom print of the Palmer Mansion on Lake Shore Drive. source

A historic photo of Lake Shore Drive. Source: http://www.goldcoastneighbors.org/Neighborhood/GCNA-History.html

A historic photo of Lake Shore Drive. source

Many of the large mansions on interior streets of Gold Coast survive today. Some have been subdivided into condos with high end finishes throughout, however, a number of large old estates have come onto the market recently.

This is an area of the city that has, for the most part, never seen real estate prices fall. Since the city’s wealthiest families moved to the area over 100 years ago the area has grown in value due in large part to what has grown up around it. A lot is to be said for the value of quality of life, and for that reason it comes at a premium.

For more history and architectural highlights of the Gold Coast neighborhood visit Vince Michael’s blog Time Tells.

Value of Historic Properties: Friday Filings

The Rookery Building. Burnham & Root, 1888. Lobby remodel by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1909. Image courtesy of flickr user jay galvin

The Rookery Building. Burnham & Root, 1888. Lobby remodel by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1909.
Image courtesy of flickr user jay galvin

Is it worth it to invest in historic properties? Will they retain their value over time? What sort of costs will I have associated with buying and maintaining a historic property? These are questions that first time historic home buyers ask themselves and that long-term investors in historic properties know the answers to.

The types of value that historic preservation offers are too numbered to capture in one blog post. Many of the values are intangibles that are unquantifiable. Some are quantifiable, including a hot topic of recent years.

This week, I Speak Vintage will begin with the environmental advantages of preserving buildings. Preservation Green Lab of the National Trust for Historic Preservation has been established in Seattle for 4 years now. They provide the most comprehensive analysis to date on building reuse. This site summarizes a study on the environmental benefits of reusing old buildings. The Green Lab focuses a lot on the embodied energy that building materials contain and the fact that it took a lot of energy to mine or manufacture the materials and transport them to the job site. They also focus on the energy used on the job site by both machine and man, some of who were great craftsman. They focus on the jobs that historic preservation creates and the skilled labor that it requires. The Green Lab works from the premise that buildings consume a large percentage of energy used every year – more than all the vehicles on the road. They believe that retrofitting and improving the performance of buildings is one of the most sustainable practices out there. That is something that is quantifiable and that the Green Lab continues to put numbers out on.

The aesthetic value of buildings is something that can be thought of as a matter of taste and is mostly unquantifiable. Some buildings look very good and appeal to broad portions of society. Simple as that. This isn’t a point that is very arguable and one that usually works its self out in the long run. The best example of this is Prentice Women’s Hospital. If you ask an architect or engineer they would use phrases such as one-of-a-kind, an engineering feat, a work of art, a unique contribution to a city of boxes and on and on to describe the building. If you ask the average Chicagoan who knows nothing about the building or architecture in general and has no connection to Prentice Women’s Hospital they say it is an eyesore, hideous and boring. They don’t see the beauty, boldness, symbolism and uniqueness in the building.

Prentice Women's Hospital. Bertrand Goldberg, 1975. Soon to be demolished.  Image courtesy of flickr user takomabibelot

Prentice Women’s Hospital. Bertrand Goldberg, 1975. Soon to be demolished.
Image courtesy of flickr user takomabibelot

Chicago’s Mayor might have been appealing to the average Chicagoan when he, in Roman Emperor fashion, gave the thumbs down to preservationists and the thumbs up to Northwestern Hospital, allowing them to move forward on demolishing the building. Read more on that here.

This is a blog about legal matters concerning historic preservation. The truth about that particular subtopic is that sometimes it doesn’t matter – rules don’t apply, money wins. It is clear that is what happened in the Prentice case, the mayor sided with one of the biggest institutions in the city and they are going to have their way.

Like art, the value of building preservation is hard to quantify. That is something that those in the field have been struggling to show for years now. The Preservation Green Lab makes a case on the environmental benefits of saving buildings that is hard to argue with. The beautiful buildings – the Picassos and Monets of the built environment – are coveted and their demand rises every year. The beauty of modern buildings, especially those of the Brutilist style, are often not seen yet and are misunderstood by the masses. The market often works out aesthetic value of buildings.

Next week I Speak Vintage will explore more of the unquantifiable values of historic preservation, including educational and quality of life. We will also look at some of the professionals in the field who have been trying to quantify the preservation of historic buildings economically.

Until then, we would love to hear from historic building owners who have invested in historic properties. What are some of the challenges you have faced? Have you seen the value of your property increase, decrease, stay the same? What types of value do you think your building holds?