Restoring Vintage Buildings When Home is History

Your home defines you. It’s where you spend most of your time. It’s where you hang your hat. It’s where you make precious memories with friends and family. And what your home looks like – whether it’s made of glass and steel or terracotta and brick, and what era it’s from – speaks volumes about you as a person. 

In major cities with rich cultural and architectural histories like Chicago, the mix of old and new is something to behold. Many types of architectural styles are represented across town, from Queen Anne and bungalow single-family homes to towers and prewar condo buildings. And also like other cities, while Chicago grows and new developments are approved, the city also protects and preserves architectural reminders of the past through the city’s Commission on Chicago Landmarks. Those include historical sites, places of worship, and commercial and residential buildings. 

Landmarked residential buildings are highly desirable places to live, indeed. They are historic reminders of the past, and feature vintage charm that can’t be replicated. And their value can often be extremely high. But living in an historic property or building also comes with its own set of potential headaches. If you want to fix something, it’s not always a simple process. Many maintenance and restoration projects, especially on the facade of a building, must be approved by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks. 

History and How It Works

The Commission on Chicago Landmarks was created by the City Council in 1957 as an advisory board whose purpose it was to compile a list of “significant buildings,” according to the rules and regulations of the city’s Landmarks Ordinance. In 1968, the Commission was officially established by city ordinance, with members appointed by the City Council and the mayor. The Commission’s responsibility is to recommend to the Council that individual buildings and even entire districts, in addition to sites and objects, be designated as landmarks, thus providing legal protections. 

“The ordinance also gave the Commission the authority to review building permits for landmarks, to ensure that any proposed alterations would not negatively affect the character of the landmark,” the document continues.