CHICAGO
05/29/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Olympic Village Site Listed Among Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois

The old Michael Reese Hospital on Chicago's South Side, a centerpiece of the city's 2016 Olympics bid, was named among the Ten Most Endangered Historic Places by the nonprofit group Landmarks Illinois at a press conference Tuesday in Springfield.

The hospital campus is the planned site of the Olympic Village should Chicago win the 2016 summer games. The city plans to demolish most, if not all, of the 29 buildings on the campus this summer, regardless of whether Chicago lands the Olympics.

New research has revealed the influence of architect and Bauhaus School founder Walter Gropius on the post-WWII expansion of the hospital campus, as Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin extensively detailed.

Landmarks Illinois described the hospital's main building, designed by Schmidt, Garden & Martin in 1907, as one of the city's most significant early hospital designs, combining modern design concepts with rich architectural details.

Although city officials say the historic building will be retained, it was included in an April 2009 Request for Qualifications for demolition, according to the Landmarks Illinois web site.

The AP's Jim Suhr details the other sites on the endangered list:

An old train depot in the path of a Rock Island County bridge project and a 29-building Chicago hospital complex on what might become an Olympic village were among 10 Illinois landmarks included Tuesday in a preservation group's latest list of endangered places.

Landmarks Illinois' 2009 rundown also includes a 136-year-old vacant building in Cook County's Riverside village and a 169-year-old former stagecoach inn in Clark County where Abraham Lincoln once slept as an attorney.

"Often these sites are not threatened because no one cares about them. It's about raising attention to their plight and making people aware of what the locals already know about them," Jim Peters, Landmarks Illinois' president and chief executive, told reporters in Springfield, Ill. "This is our work plan. This is a huge state and to focus our work on the buildings that are most critical, this '10 most' list does that."

While generally relegated to 10 sites, the list from Landmarks Illinois this year included a special mention of Chicago's landmark ordinance, given what the 38-year-old nonprofit called "its unique status as an issue."

Two property owners filed a lawsuit against the ordinance in 2006, claiming the law allowing their neighborhoods to be designated historic was vague and vulnerable to abuse. A Cook County judge later threw out the lawsuit, but a state appeals court in January ruled the ordinance unconstitutionally vague and sent the case back to Cook County Circuit Court. The city wants the Illinois Supreme Court to take up the matter, believing the January ruling could jeopardize the protection of more than 250 historic buildings and 50 neighborhood districts.

Peters called the nation's stumbling economy "a mixed blessing" in addressing the troubled landmarks. Money for upgrades may be squeezed, but so are funds that might be used for taking the wrecking ball to some of them, he said.

"All in all, it's a negative," he said. "We obviously would like to have a healthy economy ... You need a good economy to save these."

None of the sites on Tuesday's list were among those that then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich closed along with some state parks last December to help fill a budget deficit measured in the billions. After Blagojevich was booted from office in January on federal corruption charges, his successor, Gov. Pat Quinn, reopened the sites.

The preservation group says its latest list has places it considers threatened by deterioration or funding issues.

For example, there's a one-time Masonic temple in Aurora, a collection of nautical-themed agricultural buildings in Greene County and a 170-year-old, three-story Gallatin County building considered the state's oldest bank.

The latest state list also coincides with Tuesday's release of a similar nationwide list from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

That national list includes the Unity Temple, a century-old Unitarian site in suburban Chicago's Oak Park. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, that landmark is threatened by years of water infiltration.

Since the first Landmarks Illinois list was drawn up 14 years ago, 153 sites have been identified as endangered.

-ASSOCIATED PRESS