Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Group seeks to save bridge

For years now, Glencoe's Historic Preservation Commission has fought to maintain the village's storied architectural legacy in the midst of the residential teardown craze.

The battle hasn't always produced stellar results, as Glencoe has lost some of its most prized treasures with the razing of homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and George and William Keck.

Now, the commission has trained its energies on preserving six public landmarks, including the Ravine Bluffs Bridge in the 200 block of Sylvan Road. The vehicular bridge, rebuilt in 1984, is a replica of the structure Wright designed for the site in 1915 and arches over a parched length of creek, filled with fallen leaves and branches, in northeast Glencoe.

Constructed of reinforced concrete, the bridge's design is reminiscent of Wright's famed prairie style with its long horizontal lines offset by flower urns, light pillars and sitting area. It is believed to be the only bridge Wright ever designed.

The commission also is recommending designation for three "entry sculptures" that Wright designed at 277 Sylvan Road and 205 and 265 Franklin roads.

The markers were built in 1915, and, in a sense, signify the boundaries of the Ravine Bluffs subdivision, bounded by Sylvan, Meadow and Franklin roads, with its seven Wright homes. "When entering Glencoe's Ravine Bluffs subdivision, Frank Lloyd Wright's marker is the first thing you see," said Assistant Village Manager Peter Scalera.

Eddis Goodale, the commission's chairman, believes the monuments are as important to the village's architectural fabric as any home or public building. "It's the work of literally the premiere architect America has ever produced," he said. "Frank Lloyd Wright is purely American. And this is some of his work." Goodale said the commission would also like to see two entry pillars at 140 Rockgate Lane designated as well.

The monuments, located on public property, were created by Jens Jensen, whom Goodale described as the "Frank Lloyd Wright of landscape design."

None of the structures have been threatened with demolition but the move to designate them as historic landmarks signals a change in philosophy for the commission.

In the past year, the commission has often found itself playing catch-up, scurrying to recommend a home for designation after a property owner applied for a demolition permit.
By that point, it can be too late.

Though the commission has succeeded in delaying demolition, it hasn't succeeded in saving many of the village's architectural or historically significant homes once they've been sold to a developer.

Where the public landmarks are concerned, the commission isn't taking any chances.
Goodale said the designation won't shield the landmarks from demolition, but it will offer the monuments increased protection.

Because the landmarks sit on public property, it is unlikely they'd be demolished. But in a village where a structure or home's architectural pedigree seems to matter less and less, Goodale said the commission believes designation is important.

A public hearing on the proposed designations will be held in December. The Village Board must approve the resolution before the designations become official.

By Andrew Schroedter Glencoe News

Photographs of the bridge and markers cand be found at Citywide Services

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