What do Doo Wop Motels and the Chicago suburb of Kenilworth have in common? They've both just been named by the National Trust for Historic Preservation to its 2006 list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. Kenilworth may often win out as the country's wealthiest suburb, as in a 2004 survey by OnBoard LLC, but it's suffering from a "really big house gap", ranking a pathetic 88th in Forbes Magazine's 2006 list of America's most expensive zip codes, with the media home sale price an anemic $1,075,000.
Clearly, Kenilworth has a lot of catching up to do, and, according to the Trust, it's "under siege" by MacMansion mania, with nearly two dozen teardowns in just the last three years. Long-time resident George Maher tops the list of historic Chicago architects who have built in Kenilworth, accounting for over 40 of the suburb's 830 homes. Daniel Burnham also did homes there and Jens Jensen laid out a number of its landscapes. The Trust website includes a number of resources "for Protecting Historic Neighborhoods from Teardowns".
While three photographs on the website document how out of scale some of the new projects are with the rest of the community, the Trust offers little in the way of specifics to prove that important architecture has been lost. The demolished building in the photo shown above doesn't look much different than a higher end house you'd find anywhere else, nor does the commercial building next to it. Every effort should be made to save structures of true architectural distinction, but if the residents of the richest suburb in America want to slum up their own back yard with big bad outcroppings of ostentation, it's pretty much a self-inflicted wound - who are we to say no? Me, I'm a lot more concerned about the Doo Wop Motels.