Charles H. Shaw Technology and Learning Center

Chicago, Illinois

Award Type: Honor Award

Since 1905, the towering smokestack of the Sears, Roebuck and Company complex’s powerhouse has been a landmark in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood. But in the 1970s, when Sears relocated most of its operations downtown, the chimney ceased smoking, the power plant fell silent and the area around the complex began to decline.

By the 1990s, the building had fallen into disrepair and area residents saw very little potential for its reuse. Enter the Homan Arthington Foundation. Using historic tax credits, the Foundation spearheaded the Powerhouse’s $40 million adaptation, turning it into the Charles A. Shaw Technology and Learning Center—a LEED-certified school and community center, affectionately known as “Power House High.”

Pieces of the building’s industrial past are utilized as both historical reminders and teaching tools, while the building serves as a poster child for sustainable energy technology. The smokestack was restored as well, and fitted with a wind turbine. What was once a white elephant is now an engine of change and a testament to the hope preservation can bring to a struggling community.

“While each is unique, this year’s outstanding Honor Award winners all reflect the importance of protecting what is special and irreplaceable,” said Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  “Whether it’s the restoration of an iconic post office in Philadelphia or the transformation of a Greyhound bus station into a Civil Rights museum in Montgomery, this year’s Honor Award winners demonstrate how saving places is bolstering local economies and creating jobs in communities across the country.”