A massive fire that ravaged the city in 1871 may have destroyed some valuable pieces of Chicago history, but in the years following the notorious blaze, innovative and brilliant architecture became synonymous with the Windy City.
Famous architects such as Dankmar Adler, Daniel Burnham, William Holabird, William LeBaron Jenney, Martin Roche, John Root, Solon S. Beman, Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright have all made their mark on Chicago, and tourists from around the world still come here to admire their work.
While the city prides itself on its architecture, saving some of these buildings from the wrecking ball is quite the challenge. For more than ten years, Preservation Chicago has teamed up with other preservation groups around the city to do just that.
This month, the group released their annual list of the city's most endangered buildings, or "Chicago's 7." The 2011 list includes the Pullman Historic District, St. Laurence Church, Chicago Theological Seminary, Shepherd's Temple, 202 & 220 S. State St., Children's Memorial Hospital and Prentice Hospital.
Jonathan Fine, Executive Director of Preservation Chicago, told Huffington Post Chicago that threats to some of these buildings have been made for "over a decade" and that buildings in under-served communities are often targeted.
The group hopes to make city leaders realize that protecting old buildings might cost slightly more in the very short term, but the historical and environmental cost of tearing down these structures is far greater.
"[The city should] make this investment now," Fine said. "Yes, it's going to cost slightly more but we've preserved a piece of Chicago history that the community already has a stake in. Certain things you can't put a price on."
Fine said the city should "take the broad view" and realize that money from future tourism to some of these historic spaces would far outweigh the initial savings of scrapping an old building and replacing it with a new, cheap one.
"If there is going to be a new library, instead of first looking to find an empty piece of land so they can build new, they really should protect existing history," Fine said. "...an old school building, church or fire house..make that into a branch library, rather than building new.
"Destroying perfectly good buildings because we find they do not have enough closet space has become a very unsustainable way to live," Fine said. "Part of a sustainable environmental movement is a robust preservation movement."
Fine said he hopes to work with mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel's administration to preserve some of the buildings on their 2011 list, along with others. He said the tone of the mayoral campaign did not leave much room for talk about preserving Chicago's buildings.
"A tremendous amount of ink was devoted to whether Mrs. Emanuel's wedding dress was in a crawl space," Fine quipped.
Fine hopes the new mayor will be open to utilizing historic spaces when considering new public buildings, because he said, "behind every demolition of a historic building is bad public policy."
Check out the most endangered buildings in Chicago here: