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Annual contest seeks to preserve Illinois landmarks

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(The Center Square) – The battle to save Illinois landmarks continues with a public nomination campaign focused on sites deserving of preservation. This annual contest to recognize the state’s most endangered historic places was started by Landmarks Illinois in 1995.

“We accept nominations for special places, historic places, from anybody in the public about a place in Illinois,” Landmarks Illinois President and CEO Bonnie McDonald told The Center Square. “This is our oldest advocacy program, and it has been very successful in helping community members to save the places that matter to them.”

This contest has helped to preserve more than half of the 300 sites nominated over the years, and while this may not seem like a success story, McDonald said it certainly is.

“Many of these places come to us when they are close to being demolished,” she said, describing the fight to ward off the wrecking ball as often an uphill battle.

Making the list of the state’s most historic endangered places can help in terms of funding and technical assistance, she said.

One of the most notable buildings rescued from demolition, she says, is the Old Cook County Hospital in Chicago, which has emerged as a hotel and food hall.

Besides jobs, McDonald told The Center Square many benefits stem from preservation.

“If you care about the environment, reusing existing places is one of the greenest things we can do. Reusing our existing materials is just an inherently sustainable thing to do,” she said. “Additionally, we see that more jobs are created when we use an existing place because it takes more labor than materials.”

Those with a landmark in need of a boost can send their nomination via the website Landmarks.org before the Jan. 12 deadline. Winners will be announced in May.

According to the nonprofit’s website, sites can be nominated based on historical or architectural qualities or they may be important to the community’s way of life, traditions and heritage.

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