Danville Building Makes State’s Historic List

April 25, 2012

The tallest building in Danville is on this year's top ten list of endangered places from the preservation group Landmarks Illinois..

The Bresee Tower located at 925 N. North Vermilion Street was built in 1917 as the First National Bank, and it has been vacant since 2006. The owners of it cannot afford to renovate it, but that hasn't stopped the county, city, and other local groups from working out a plan to preserve the property.

Dana Schaumberg, who is the executive director of Downtown Danville Incorporated, said there has already been talk about ways to bring the building back to life.

"The first floor would be really a near place to have a restaurant," she said. "There's actually like a little Mezzanine levels where you could have little private dining areas, and then also office space for the middle floor. And then the higher floors can be higher-end residential."

This year's list of endangered historic places in the state includes the usual mix of farmhouses, residences and government buildings. But it also includes five neighborhood schools.

The schools are Enos Elementary School in Springfield, Franklin Elementary School in Jacksonville, Pekin Community High School West Campus, El Paso-Gridley High School, and Harrisburg High School, but they represent similar buildings across the state.

Landmarks Illinois, the non-profit group that publishes the annual list of endangered places, said saving historic schools can be a particularly hard sell.

Jean Follett is the director of Landmarks Illinois. She said leaders would rather be able to point to a new school ... a monument, she calls it.

"It's great for them to be able to leave office and say that they've built this many new schools," Follett said. "Nobody's going to care if they say they've renovated 20."

Illinois' school construction law only allows funding to replace aging schools. A proposal under consideration in the House would change the law to allow funding to rehab such schools.

Two modernist buildings also made it on the list. among the 10-most endangered historic places in Illinois. Follett said mid-20th-century structures are increasingly at risk.

Prentice Women's Hospital in Chicago ... with its curving walls and oval, porthole windows ... does not seem like an obvious candidate for historic preservation.

"Initially, I think, when we started talking about Prentice Hospital, people were thinking it was one of the ten ugliest buildings in Chicago and why were we trying to save it?" Follett said.

Follett has been trying to save Prentice because it was designed by Bertrand Goldberg, who was a Chicago architect with an international reputation .

This year's top-ten endangered list also includes Blair House, a Lake Bluff residence that was celebrated when it was built in 1955.

"We're really finding a lot of mid-century modern things that need our help," Follett said. "Because they are kind of the ugly ducklings in a lot of people's minds, and they are unprotected for the most part."

Both Prentice and Blair are vacant, and face demolition to make way for new construction.

Other sites to make it on the list include the residential Hotel Guyon in Chicago, Maywood Home for Soldiers' Widows, Fox River Country Day School in Elgin, Freeport City Hall, Bruch-Guertler House in Alton, and Marbold Farmstead in Greenview.

Story source: WILL