Landmarks Illinois: Celebrating 50 Years of Preservation Advocacy

Feb 18, 2021 | Blog, Featured

People Saving Places for People.  That’s the tagline of Landmarks Illinois, and I must tell you: I am proud to be one of those people.

Landmarks Illinois is a nonprofit preservation advocacy organization whose mission is to preserve, protect, and promote architectural and historic resources in Illinois.  Since 1971, Landmarks has been the go-to for preservation-oriented leadership, innovation, and collaboration throughout the state.  Preserving our built environment requires aptitude in so many skills-advocacy, education, programming/events work, policy knowledge, to name a few-and, in my opinion, the Landmarks team embodies these skillsets.

Gary W. Anderson leading Judson University students on a tour of the Haight Village neighborhood.

Gary pictured with Julie Carpenter and Anne Puotinen from Landmarks Illinois at the 2020 Legendary Landmarks event, taken pre-COVID. Photo courtesy of Landmarks Illinois.

I’ve had the pleasure of serving on the Landmarks Illinois Board since 2015, and I am currently the Vice Chair of the board for the last two years.  Additionally, I chair the Landmarks Board Development Committee and am a member of the Easement Committee.  The Easement Committee oversees property easements that have been donated to protect facades and key architectural elements for tax-deductible purposes.  We monitor over 530 easements throughout the State of Illinois.  

Aerial image of downtown Rockford, Illinois, looking north, with view of the Rock River.

Henry Demarest Lloyd house, Winnetka.   This home was the first easement for Landmarks Illinois in 1976.  Photo courtesy of Landmarks Illinois.

Landmarks Illinois has given me the opportunity to meet and work with so many people that share my passion and commitment to preservation and issues.  It has been an exciting six years of working with a 35-member Board of Directors and a full-time staff of nine.  The staff has a tremendous amount of knowledge and passion for the work that they do. The network of the board is vast and connected to a host of preservation matters throughout the state.

Image of Washington Park National Bank in Chicago, Illinois.

The Washington Park National Bank was part of the Landmark Illinois 2019 Most Endangered List.  Photo courtesy of Eric Allix Rogers.

This year, Landmarks Illinois is celebrating its 50th anniversary, which is an impressive milestone that advocates like myself are incredibly proud of.  The anniversary gives us an opportunity to look back and refocus on going forward, reflecting on past accomplishments while preparing for the work ahead.  Under the leadership of Bonnie McDonald, we’ve been examining how Landmarks can be a more effective, relevant, and an impactful organization that will focus on equity, inclusion, and broadening the base of preservation advocacy.

Not familiar with Landmarks Illinois?  They are well-known for publishing an annual list of the Most Endangered structures in the state that face demolition or suffer from neglect.  They sponsor the Driehaus Preservation Awards which honors annually the best in preservation. And there’s a good chance they are in your neck of the woods, helping with a variety of issues, and supporting grassroots preservation efforts.

Image of Judson University School of Architecture students being interviewed for an upcoming Great Neighborhoods documentary.

Rise Above It Bakery & Café in Carterville, Illinois was a recipient of a 2019 Preservation Award. Photo courtesy of Landmarks Illinois.

The preservation and reuse of old buildings matter.  So often they embody the history and culture of the people in a given community.  And reuse has proven to be a valuable economic development tool, creating jobs and opportunities that we never dreamed were possible.  This has been my life’s work, and organizations like Landmarks Illinois remind me I’m not alone in this work.  People Saving Places for People.

Credit for Cover Image: Dave Burk | SOM

Gary Anderson

Gary W. Anderson

“Architecture defines a community’s identity and vision, but it is the passion of its people that defines its character. Design should be purposeful in connecting place with people.”

Principal Architect

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