When is a Local Landmark Worth Saving?

Among Chicago’s lesser-known, but still influential, buildings is the old Prentice Women’s Hospital, designed by Bertrand Goldberg in 1975. When it opened, Goldberg’s unique clover-shaped design garnered international press coverage — now, the building sits largely empty and is slated for demolition.

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Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin, which is maintained by Taliesin Preservation, Inc.

Yesterday, Landmarks Illinois hosted a Rally to Save Prentice outside the building, the same day the National Trust for Historic Preservation published its list of 2011's most endangered historical sites. All this demolition talk made me think — in a country where iconic skyscrapers are renamed (ahem, Willis Tower), and 150-year-old houses are considered ancient, when is a landmark worth rallying around and saving?

There are structures across the country so iconic, it’s hard to imagine modern America without them, from the Flatiron Building to the Space Needle. But there are thousands of others, that while less famous, still hold a place in history, particularly local history. As I saw the flyer for the Prentice rally circulating on Facebook, I thought about the landmarks that inspire preservation efforts and what makes them special. Some have influenced entire design schools. Others are quaint reminders of the past. Many have housed historical figures. But they've all hit an emotional chord in the community.

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169 E. Ferry in Buffalo, NY. The historic hardware store made New York State's "Seven to Save" list in 2010.

Like many Americans who have traveled abroad, I’m continually amazed at the longevity of buildings in other countries. And while preservation leagues across the America champion historic homes and buildings, even structures by architects as famous as Frank Lloyd Wright face demolition and decay. And clearly, they can’t all be saved. So what’s your opinion? When is a historic home or local landmark worth saving?

Images: 1. Landmarks, Illinois. 2. Taliesin Preservation, Inc. 3. Joe Cascio for the Buffalo Spree.