Chicago To Lose 1895 YWCA
By Margaret Foster | Online Only | Nov. 12, 2009
UPDATE: Demolition of the YWCA began in January 2010.
At the turn of the last century, single women could find a home in Chicago at the Young Women's Christian Association Building on Michigan Avenue. At a court hearing today, a city judge ruled that the building, abandoned for almost three decades, must be torn down.
"This will mark the first demolition in this very famous landmark district [created in 2001]," says Jim Peters, president of Landmarks Illinois, which placed the building on its Chicagoland Watch List last year. "We're going to have a gap in this very prominent block."
Built in 1895 and designed by John M. Van Osdel II, the seven-story structure served as a hotel until 1929. Now boarded up, the timber-frame building is in poor condition, according to the city and a report by the Chicago-based architectural firm Thornton Tomasetti. Developer Michigan 830 LLC, which bought the building last year, hired the firm this summer to assess the structure.
Last month, after several citations from the city's building department, Michigan 830 LLC applied for a demolition permit for the structure. (Representatives from Thornton Tomasetti and Michigan 830 LLC could not be reached for comment.)
Tomorrow the city building commissioner will officially deem the YWCA unsafe and order its demolition. The loss of the YWCA will leave a hole in downtown Chicago's Michigan Avenue Streetwall. Last year the National Trust for Historic Preservation placed the Michigan Avenue Streetwall on its list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.
Peters says Landmarks Illinois is trying to urge the city to add a clause to its landmark ordinance that penalizes owners who neglect their historic properties. "This is one of the holes in preservation in terms of landmark protection," Peters says. "The city can protect the building from all sorts of things, but if it's viewed as dangerous and a public safety risk, that trumps everything else."
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