Belleville Historic Building "Endangered"
1:24 pm
Wed April 6, 2011

Belleville building among most endangered historic sites

Reporting from Illinois Public Radio's Luke Runyon used in this report.

Several aging buildings in Illinois have a better chance of survival now that they’ve been added to Landmarks Illinois’ list of the Ten Most Endangered Historic Places for 2011.

Two of the properties are over 100 years old, and others, includes Belleville Turner Hall, a community and civic center in Belleville, Ill., which dates back to the 1920s and ‘30s.

Belleville Turner Hall also served as a fitness center for German immigrants in the 1920s. Bob Brunkow is with the Belleville Historical Society. He says the limestone and brick, art-deco building is now in poor condition and that the building's deep history should be preserved.

"Their feeling was that fitness extends to both physical fitness and mental fitness," Brunkow said. "So they had speaking competitions and stage presentations to develop both the mind and the body."

Brunkow says St. Clair County officials are eyeing the building's space to use a parking lot. He says he fears the city may sell the structure to the County, which may demolish it.

Crumbling historic sites on the verge of collapse have been getting help from Landmarks Illinois for 17 years. The “Ten Most” list began in 1995 and brings focus to rehabilitating historic structures that might be on their last leg.

According to a press release, since the list’s inception, the agency has saved more than a third of the properties named to it, less than a quarter have been demolished, and the remaining structures have stayed on the endangered list.

One of the buildings to make it to the 2011 list, the Prentice Women’s Hospital in Chicago, was designed by the American architect Bertrand Goldberg. Goldberg might be best known for his spiraling concrete residential building, the Marian City complex, in Chicago.