24-Oct-18 – Three picturesque 19th century row houses on Superior Street may soon be demolished to make way for a new large-scale development.
The three properties, located at 42, 44, and 46 East Superior Street, were placed on the city’s 90-day demolition delay hold list on September 12 after a wrecking company, Heneghan Wrecking & Excavating, filed an application to demolish the buildings.
The delay was automatically triggered because all three properties have been designated with an orange rating from the city’s official historic resources survey. Orange is the second-highest preservation designation and indicates the properties “possess some architectural features or historical associations that [have] made them potentially significant in the context of the surrounding community.”
With less than 60 days remaining on the hold, Preservation Chicago, a local nonprofit dedicated to architectural preservation, and community activists are asking 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly and the historic preservation division of the city’s Department of Planning & Development to stop the demolition and give the buildings landmark protection.
According to information posted on the city’s website, all three buildings were built during the 1870s and 1880s, in the wake of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
In April 2017, New York-based Symmetry Property Development sought to replace the three row houses with a 60-story mixed-use building. Citing traffic concerns associated with adding such a structure to the community, Reilly rejected that proposal.
Preservation Chicago has been working on a proposal to protect the remaining 19th century buildings in the area by having the neighborhood designated a Chicago Landmark District.
“[These] fine quality buildings reflect an amazing story of the growth of the Near North Side, as it was reconstructed after the Chicago Fire, to the early 20th century, in addition to their individual attributes,” said Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago.
The three buildings, said Miller, provide a tangible connection to the city’s past. Originally built as high-quality residences, adaptive reuse has enabled them to survive into the 21st century.
The property at 42 East Superior Street, historically known as The George A. Tripp House, has been the longtime home of Sunny Side Up Brunch & Coffee Shoppe, a neighborhood favorite.
Miller laments the possible loss of the row houses and adds their 19th century scale has allowed the surrounding neighborhood to maintain a sense of community.
“There was a time when large areas of the community had these small enclaves of shops and restaurants, even extending to Oak Street. However, these small remaining buildings are one of the last of such groupings, and if they are lost or demolished, this will negatively impact the community and quality of life issues,” Miller said.
Preservation Chicago, along with several nearby high-rise buildings and their residents, are encouraging preservation of these structures, along with the creation of a Chicago Landmark District of about 12 buildings in the area, most of which are orange-rated and have already been considered highly significant.
The new landmark district, said Miller, could protect the 12 structures interspersed from Ohio Street north to Superior Street and State Street east to Rush Street. The proposed landmark district of these buildings would complement landmarks such as Chicago Water Tower on North Michigan Avenue, Holy Name Cathedral on North Wabash Avenue, and St. James Cathedral on East Huron Street.
All the buildings were constructed between 1869 and 1883. Several of the residential structures were home to Chicago’s most prominent industrialists of their time, including the McCormick family, which owned McCormick Harvesting Machine Company.
Miller said the buildings reflect how North Michigan Avenue once appeared before it transformed from Pine Street to the Magnificent Mile. Much of the area’s past is lost, he said, whenever historic buildings are demolished.
“We are at a tipping point,” said Miller, “where the community may become a high-rise canyon, deprived of sunlight, negatively impacting quality of life issues, which [ultimately] may impact the desirability of the community.”
Photos by Steven Dahlman