Although the qualifications of an individual building may be fiercely debated, the the most classic definition of a landmark is clear: a structure of national or international significance in terms of unique quality of design of historical import.
There is, of course, a second level of landmark, far more abject, but a kind of landmark that still forms the bedrock of continuity, not by being a masterpiece, but by carrying into the present that sense of history without which a city, town or neighborhood becomes nothing more than an accident of geography.Logan Square activist Mark Heller is making a case for this building, an administrative structure from the 1920 or 30's that was retrofitted to serve as a mini-fieldhouse for Haas Park, on Fullerton, just east of California.
It's about to be replaced by a new, much-needed, expanded 10,000 square-foot facility, pictured below, designed by the firm of Johnson & Lee. According to the city's Public Building Commission it will "include a gymnasium, club rooms, and administrative support offices. Building construction will consist of pre-cast concrete wall panels and curtain wall systems. New landscaped areas will flank three sides of the building to provide a buffer zone from the surrounding vehicle traffic noises as well as site drainage support." The construction is part of an overall $10,000,000 project to expand and upgrade the park, which is in a part of the city that finishes next-to-last in park acreage per capita.
For two years, Heller has been urging the Chicago Park District to look at re-use options, to little result. "It's just way easier," he says, "to demolish a classic small neighborhood park brick building than to 'think outside the box' and explore preservation." He's proposing moving the current building - at a cost he estimates at $250-300,000 - to a new location where it could be adaptively reused, such as Humboldt Park, or the new Bloomingdale Trail.
This Saturday, April 24th, between 1 and 3:00 p.m., there will be a "farewell" party for the 80-year-old structure, with food, refreshments, music, and an absence of sentimentality.
The Haas park building is rated "orange" on the Chicago Landmarks Commission Historic Resources Survey of potentially landmarkable buildings, but the listing cites no architect, construction date, or style.
In a large urban center, it seems always to be about building bigger. Is there still room for modest structures of humble character, who did their jobs well, and with grace?