Little house on Prairie could become a city landmark

October 5, 2011

A 121-year-old remnant of the old Prairie Avenue neighborhood--the place where the city's 19th century upper crust once lived--could be headed toward landmark status this week.

Staff from the Historic Preservation Division of the city's department of Housing and Economic Development will ask the landmarks commission to recommend preliminary landmark status to the Harriet F. Rees House, 2110 S. Prairie. The commission meets Thursday afternoon at City Hall.

One visit to the block shows why landmarks officials would be interested in preserving the old graystone. Its upscale Victorian era contemporaries long gone, the three-story, 5,100sq limestone-faced rowhouse is surrounded by vacant land, industrial buildings, new South Loop highrises and the ever-expanding McCormick Place. Indeed, in 2007 the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority discussed preliminary plans to condemn the block on which the Rees house sits and construct a 1500-room hotel.

The rowhouse was designed by Cobb & Frost, a firm led by the famed Henry Ives Cobb and Charles Sumner Frost. The firm created a host of structures including the Ransom Cable House, a city landmark at 25 E. Erie; and homes on Bellvue and Astor streets on the Gold Coast. While part of the original Prairie Avenue neighborhood, the Rees house is outside of the protected historic Prairie Avenue landmark district.

If officials vote to approve preliminary landmark status for the Rees house, the building would be protected from demolition and unsympathetic alterations until the body decides whether to grant full landmark status, possibly within a year's time.