Advocates push to preserve Illinois history with public funds

A group trying to save historic places in Illinois wants the government to spend more money to help preserve landmark sites. The Center Square

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A group trying to save historic places in Illinois wants the government to spend more money to help preserve landmark sites.

Lisa DiChiera, director of advocacy for Landmarks Illinois, said the government has shown an unwillingness to spend public money or taxpayer dollars on older historic buildings.

DiChiera said places such as older courthouses, schools and city halls are often vacated by the government. Landmarks Illinois released its annual list of Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois earlier this month. The list includes the Rock Island County Courthouse and the James R. Thompson Center, a building in Chicago owned by the state.

“These are places that government is viewing as disposable and that continues to be a problem,” DiChiera said. “All of these places were built with our public taxpayer dollars in the first place and it should always be the first option to invest in these places and make them better and give them the longevity that they deserve.”

In the last 25 years, Landmarks Illinois has put 242 places on its list in hopes of preserving them.

DiChiera said the organization has been able to save at least half of those sites that would have otherwise been demolished.

“We, unfortunately, see that there are financial incentives available for demolition for economic development and replacement as much as there is for rehab,” DiChiera said. “We have to continue to make the argument to local officials that protecting, maintaining, reusing older building stock is economic development as well.”

Landmarks Illinois hopes that its list of historical places will encourage state and local officials to come up with ways to preserve historic sites.

“The hope is that it sends a message to public officials, sends a message to the development community, it sends a message to whomever it may be, that it’s time to come back to the table and find a solution,” DiChiera said. “These are these places that we put on our list; we say generally these are not throwaway buildings.”

DiChiera said many historic buildings cannot be rebuilt because the materials and craftsmanship are not available anymore.

The Center Square

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