Historic Preservation Division
Supporting Information Facts


City Services

Chicago Park Boulevard System Historic District (cont.)

Contact: T. Tatum, 312.744.9147 or ttatum@cityofchicago.org

24th Boulevard and Douglas Park neighborhoods

Why is Chicago’s Park Boulevard System important?

Chicago’s Park Boulevard System was the first major comprehensive system in the country, and its design was seminal in the creation of such systems in cities nationwide.  The system’s boulevards and parks were created in the late 1800s to spur residential real-estate development and to help create healthful, accessible and livable neighborhoods in what was then the largely undeveloped outskirts of Chicago. It created one of the city’s most recognizable and lasting urban features, helped to define the historic visual character of many of Chicago’s neighborhoods, and provided an amenity that elevated the city by enriching both its visible character and its quality of life.  Because of their location along the park boulevard system, the buildings along the boulevards and associated parks typically have a high quality of architectural design and craftsmanship, which further distinguishes the boulevard system. 

How does Chicago’s Park Boulevard System meet criteria for listing on the National Register of Historic Places?

Nominations to the National Register of Historic Places need to meet at least one of four National Register criteria.  The proposed historic district is being nominated to the National Register under two criteria: Criteria A for community planning and development (local significance) and Criteria C for both landscape architecture (national significance) and architecture (local significance).

How are buildings in National Register historic districts categorized?

Properties within National Register historic districts are defined as either “contributing” or “non-contributing.” For the purposes of the Chicago Park Boulevard System Historic District, “non-contributing” properties are:

1)      properties built outside the boulevards’ major period of development (called the “Period of Significance”), i.e., generally those built after 1942;

2)      vacant lots; or

3)      properties that have had such major exterior changes that they no longer convey their historic character.

A list of buildings in the proposed historic district, arranged by address and with “contributing / non-contributing” information, can be found here.

What is the “period of significance” for the proposed historic district?

The “period of significance” for the proposed historic district is 1869 (when the Illinois state legislature established the park commissions that created Chicago’s Park Boulevard System) to 1942 (the end of boulevard and park improvements funded by “New Deal” Federal government spending).  

In addition, the period of significance for the south side of the Midway Plaisance in the Woodlawn community separately extends to 1964 and includes the University of Chicago’s construction of architecturally significant, post-World War II buildings such as the 1959 Laird Bell Law School by Eero Saarinen and the 1964 School of Social Service Administration by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

How were boundaries determined for the proposed historic district?

The proposed district boundaries were determined on a block by block basis. All buildings facing park boulevards and the streets facing the associated parks, as well as buildings facing side streets between boulevards and the nearest parallel alleys, were evaluated.  The proposed district’s percentage as well as concentration of contributing properties vs. non-contributing properties needs to be maximized to meet National Register guidelines for listing.  In defining which blocks and properties were included, if a block had less than 50% contributing buildings, it typically was not included. Whole vacant blocks were excluded.  Smaller vacant lots and large non-contributing buildings were eliminated as much as possible.  Buildings that were alone on a block were not generally included unless they were both contributing and had particular architectural or other known historical associations.

Where can I get more information on the National Register of Historic Places?

The National Register of Historic Places is a federal program that recognizes historically and architecturally significant properties throughout the United States.  In Illinois, the program is administered by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency (IHPA), a state agency headquartered in Springfield.  Information on the National Register of Historic Places and the nomination process may be found on the IHPA website at http://www.illinoishistory.gov/PS/historicplaces.htm.

Where can I get more information on available preservation and rehabilitation incentives?

Information on the State Property Tax Freeze Program for rehabilitation of owner-occupied residences and the 20% Federal rehabilitation tax credit program for commercial, industrial and rental residential properties may be found on the IHPA website at http://www.illinoishistory.gov/PS/financial.htm.

Next steps

Informational meetings on the proposed Chicago Park Boulevard System Historic District nomination, the National Register process, and available preservation and rehabilitation incentives have been scheduled.  A list containing locations, dates and times for these meetings can be found here.

The National Register nomination for the proposed Chicago Park Boulevard System Historic District is scheduled to be reviewed by the Program Committee of the Commission on Chicago Landmarks.  As a Certified Local Government, the Commission comments on proposed National Register nominations to the Illinois Historic Sites Advisory Council (IHSAC), which reviews such nominations on behalf of the State of Illinois.  The Program Committee meeting will be held in the Historic Preservation Division conference room at 33 N. LaSalle St. on Tuesday, August 30, 2011, beginning at 9:30 a.m.  A meeting agenda will be posted on the Historic Preservation Division website at http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/dcd/supp_info/landmarks_commission.html when it is available.

The Illinois Historic Sites Advisory Council (IHSAC) will then consider the National Register nomination for the proposed district at its quarterly meeting on Friday, September 9, 2011.  Its meeting will be held in Chicago at the Chicago Architecture Foundation meeting room in the Santa Fe Building, 224 S. Michigan Ave., first floor, beginning at 9:30 a.m.  An agenda for the meeting can be found on the IHSAC website at http://www.illinoishistory.gov/PS/IHSAC.htm.  If approved by IHSAC, the nomination will be forwarded to the National Park Service in Washington, D.C., for its review and final determination.  

For more information

Property owners and other individuals with questions about the proposed Chicago Park Boulevard System Historic District nomination or the National Register of Historic Places in general should call Terry Tatum of the City of Chicago’s Historic Preservation Division office at 312.744.9147 or contact him by email at ttatum@cityofchicago.org.