Preservation Chicago Director of Research & Special Projects Max Chavez points toward the curved rear of the S.A. Maxewll Company building, now the 36Squared Business Incubator, on the tour of the Original East District of the Central Manufacturing District.

Central Manufacturing District Tour Highlights Endangered Historic Buildings

Published November 11, 2021

The McKinley Park neighborhood is home to the very first planned manufacturing area in the world: local history plumbed and examined in a September 25, 2021, tour of the of the Central Manufacturing District by Preservation Chicago.

 
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“This is the original CMD,” Preservation Chicago Executive Director Ward Miller said of the Original East District, the focus of the tour that preceded later development of the nearby warehouses along Pershing Road. “It really all started here.”

 
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The tour led through historic manufacturing and support sites on the east side of the McKinley Park neighborhood and across Bubbly Creek into the Bridgeport neighborhood, including locations of now-demolished buildings and those that still stand.


The video of Preservation Chicago's tour of the Original East District of the Central Manufacturing District presents a multitude of detail about the historic business area.

The Original East District borders were West 35th Street on the north, South Morgan Avenue (approximately) on the east, 39th Street — now Pershing Road — on the south and Ashland Avenue on the west, said Max Chavez, director of research and special projects for Preservation Chicago.

“The district is an undeniable Chicago treasure,” Chavez said, “a place of deep and rich history enshrined within impressively detailed design by some of Chicago's most accomplished architects.”

 
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Due to safety concerns tied to the COVID pandemic, Preservation Chicago limited in-person attendance for the tour, but conducted a live stream of it, a video of which is viewable online.

 
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Strategic Blight

Much of the tour focused on the need to preserve the area’s remaining historic buildings and classic infrastructure. Preservation Chicago included the Original East District in its 2021 Most Endangered list.

“Although many CMD East structures have been lost, we've also seen many reuses that show that these buildings can be saved and repurposed,” Chavez said. He cited examples in the “heart” of the Original East District such as the 36Squared Business Incubator and Marz Community Brewing Company.

 

Many buildings remain endangered due to threat of demolition, Chavez said. “Blight, neglect and deferred maintenance are notoriously common tools employed by property owners to force the eventual demolition of historic structures,” he said.

Examples of lost structures due to neglect include the former Wrigley Company factory at West 35th Street and South Ashland Avenue, now an Amazon last-mile shipping facility occupying a plot that once also housed the recently demolished, historic Larkin Soap company building.

 
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Landmark Goals

The vacant Continental Can Company building rests inside the Original East District of the Central Manufacturing District at South Ashland Avenue and West Pershing Road.The vacant Continental Can Company building rests inside the Original East District of the Central Manufacturing District at South Ashland Avenue and West Pershing Road.The Wrigley factory plot was owned and developed by Avgeris and Associates, which also owns – and has listed for sale – the former Continental Can Company building at South Ashland Avenue and West Pershing Road.

Chavez said Preservation Chicago hopes for adaptive reuse of this property, however, “we find it hard to imagine that's the case seeing as previous historic buildings in this district have disappeared under their watch.”

“There’s still so much here worth saving.” Miller said. “We want to see a number of these buildings honored and landmarked and designated and protected.”

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Audrey Teabow
???? I wish I could walk around and see all the old building still there. Thank you for the history!

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