June 9, 2017

Early Skyscrapers Placed On U.S. World Heritage Tentative List


AIA Chicago and the City of Chicago are pleased to announce that Chicago’s Early Skyscrapers have been included on the United States’ World Heritage Tentative List and formally submitted to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre.

These sites include:

  • Rookery Building, 209 S. LaSalle St.
  • Auditorium Building, 430 S. Michigan Ave.
  • Monadnock Building, 53 W. Jackson Blvd.
  • Ludington Building, 1104 S. Wabash Ave.
  • Marquette Building, 140 S. Dearborn St.
  • Old Colony Building, 407 S. Dearborn St.
  • Carson, Pirie, Scott and Co. Building, 1 S. State St.
  • Second Leiter Building, 403 S. State St.
  • Fisher Building, 343 S. Dearborn St.

The opportunity to make a proposal for the Tentative List was brought to the attention of several invested organizations and individuals in early 2016 by Stephen Morris, Chief of the National Park Service’s (NPS) Office of International Affairs and Phyllis Ellin, Historian for the World Heritage program at the National Park Service.

“Since the early days of the program, the pioneering early skyscrapers of Chicago, particularly the early 20th century steel frame structures, have been viewed as prime candidates for the World Heritage List,” commented Morris. “The development and blossoming of the technology and aesthetics that created these buildings was clearly centered here, and had unquestioned worldwide influence.”

The process of placing buildings on the UNESCO World Heritage List is lengthy. The US Department of Interior is responsible for assembling the Tentative List and authorizing the preparation of nominations from it; those nominations are then submitted to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee (Committee) and evaluated by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), a private organization that advises the Committee on cultural properties; this evaluation process takes over one year to visit and evaluate the nominated sites before making a recommendation. The World Heritage Committee makes the final decision as to whether to add sites to the list.

“The U.S. government has recognized Chicago’s contributions to architecture and engineering, and we look forward to working with the National Park Service to make a strong case for these buildings to become World Heritage sites,” said Department of Planning and Development Commissioner David L. Reifman, who sits on the Commission on Chicago Landmarks.

According to the NPS, the Tentative List was last updated in 2008 and has received more than 100 suggested sites since.

The World Heritage Committee review looks for many characteristics in the nominated properties , including the condition of the building, the levels of protection or systems in place to protect the structure long-term, and the site’s universal value—that it represents not just the best of the country but a value relatable to all.

“This initiative highlights the stories of building innovation in Chicago,” states Zurich Esposito, Executive Vice President of AIA Chicago.

The ten organizations responsible for this accomplishment are:

  • AIA Chicago
  • Association for Preservation Technology International
  • Chicago Architecture Foundation
  • Chicago Department of Planning and Development
  • Chicago History Museum
  • Landmarks Illinois
  • National Trust for Historic Preservation, Midwest Field Office
  • Preservation Chicago
  • Richard H. Driehaus Foundation

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