1048 N. Honore demolition threatened


By Scott A. Rappe, AIA

A demolition permit application has been filed for 1048 N. Honore St., a modest frame structure located within the boundaries of the East Village Landmark District.

It is not clear why a request for a demolition permit is being entertained at this time. Nonetheless, the issue will be considered at a commission hearing on July 11.

This house has its original wood siding, windows, surrounds, even its front door and transom are intact – amazing for its age. No vinyl here, only 130-year-old, old-growth wood.

Normally, buildings within landmark districts are classified as either "contributing," meaning they are protected by the ordinance, or "non-contributing" allowing more latitude in what can be done to them. The classification of 1048 N. Honore was inexplicably omitted from the Preliminary Landmark recommendation, which was approved by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks in January 2005.

As is typical in the months following establishment of a preliminary landmark district, additional research and analysis was done by the Department of Planning and Development and consultations with the community were held. This effort resulted in a document called "Recommended Revisions to Building Catalog," dated June 22, 2005. This document adjusted the boundaries of the district to those that exist today, excluded some buildings, included some that were missed initially and recognized 1048 N. Honore as contributing.

A comprehensive and dynamic interpretation of history is one of the prime reasons for preserving a community’s historic assets. This simple wood structure contrasts with the red brick buildings that characterize the East Village district. Being both smaller and less ornamented than its masonry neighbors, it tells a slightly different story about the people living and building in East Village during Chicago’s post-fire period. The existence of this modest home allows observant passersby to consider an alternate narrative to the one told by the ubiquitous red-brick Victorians and contributes to a richer understanding of our neighborhood’s history.

Our few remaining wood homes connect us to the very earliest days of Chicago, some are from the 1870s. The person who built 1048 N. Honore probably witnessed the Chicago Fire, perhaps was even displaced by it. These Italianates belong to a generation earlier and are that much more valuable. They are easier and less expensive to renovate than the brick ones and can easily be insulated and air-sealed to modern standards.

Despite its differences, the inclusion of this structure in the district is completely consistent with the Criteria for Designation, being a finely detailed working-class residence dating from the last decades of the 1800s that retains its original siding, windows, window surrounds, entry door and transom. The loss of this modest building would imply a homogeneity that never existed and deprive the community of a full understanding of its history.



Update: I attended the landmarks hearing and argued that saving the building was consistent with the landmark ordinance. The landmarks staff report also recommended not issuing a demolition permit.

6 comments:

  1. Pick your battles. Just because something is old doesn't make it valuable. This is an ugly house with little -- if any -- redeeming value, and a newer structure would contribute aesthetically and to the tax base. Level it.

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    2. Your response is consistent with Chicago's approach to historic architecture for the past 100 years. This approach has resulted in the loss of architectural gems by Louis Sullivan, Burnham, Mies van der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright, etc. And this approach has created an East Village that is looking more like Schaumburg with each passing day. Beauty's in the eye of the beholder and your crass response is both ignorant and base. There's more to a neighborhood than what it's worth as determined by the banks. It's this sort of thinking that got is into the banking mess we still haven't exited from. And it's what's created a slew of soulless, pedestrian un-friendly neighborhoods that mar the nation.

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    3. Would you want to live in this?

      Also, monetary value is only part of the equation -- the aesthetics, contribution to the neighborhood, etc. also matter. EVA does a great job pushing projects that are beneficial to the neighborhood as a whole, and my point is that a nice, attractive, non-crappy structure would be far more valuable to the community than this ugly, run-down blight on our landscape.

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  2. Please don't confuse 'new' with 'quality' or 'ugly' with 'poorly maintained'.

    This building is poorly maintained; that is a reflection of its owners, not the building. New construction does not ensure a building will be attractive, and judging by the quality of the typical new buildings built in EV, most will require more (frequent & extensive) repair than the older buildings in the neighborhood ever did.

    The quality of materials and craftsmanship of older buildings imbue them with a resilience that is lacking in new construction. The vintage buildings in EV have weathered numerous cycles of abuse over the past twelve decades, yet shine when renovated by caring owners.

    Unfortunately, this resilience is lacking in new construction. When condo associations don't stay on top of the problems, these new buildings are much less forgiving. Deferred maintenance becomes an existential problem, rather than simply an aesthetic one.

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  3. There are many people living in this home. The police are called there very often. There has been domestic violence and many problems surrounding this home for years. I live very close and my guess it is a total gut rehab (if anything can be done)and probably not salvagable. It has been destroyed inside. The buidling;'s landlord rents the individual rooms and not apartments. It is unfortunate but I doubt highly this property can be saved due to how poorly it has been treated all of these years. I am thrilled all of these people will be moving out and a new or rehabbed home will replace it. The sooner this home is vacated, the better.

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