The City of Chicago has one of the most aggressive landmark designation programs in the country. We utilize the Chicago Historic Resources Survey (CHRS), a citywide survey of historic resources, as a tool in this effort. Ben Joravsky’s December 13 article [“Talk, Talk, Talk”] contained several misstatements about the survey which I want to clarify.
The CHRS provides the base research used in developing the work program and preparing designations. The survey was not completed by unpaid volunteers on a shoestring budget, but rather a professional staff of seven who conducted fieldwork in teams of three, each led by an architectural historian.
The survey was a “windshield” survey of the potential historic significance of individual buildings built pre-1940, so it was limited by design to architectural significance and what could be seen from the street. With a half-million buildings being evaluated, there may be a few omissions or data-entry mistakes. However, our experience with the survey has been that such errors are extremely few and far between.
Regarding the demolished property at 5306 W. Lawrence cited in the Reader article, the property was not included in the survey because it did not qualify to be included. While it did date from the 1920s, age alone would not be enough to justify inclusion, otherwise hundreds of thousands of old buildings in Chicago would be in the survey.
The building was evaluated in the 1970s by the State of Illinois, and by landmarks commission staff in the 1980s and again earlier this year. Each time the conclusion was the same–the building did not have sufficient architectural or historic significance or integrity to qualify for Chicago landmark designation or listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
Deputy commissioner for landmarks
City of Chicago Department of Planning and Development