Last week, a demolition crew began taking down the walls of the 19th century Sommers Saloon so that CPS could expand its substation at Tenth Street and N. Alamo. Although originally slated to go to the City’s Material Innovation Center, the salvaged limestone will be reused by the Oxbow Development Group in a way that recognizes the history of the Saloon and Beer Garden. Read more.
CPS Energy had agreed to conserve the stone walls in 2021, but then requested permission to demolish the building earlier this year. The City’s Office of Historic Preservation (OHP) determined that the building did not meet the criteria for landmark designation and approved the demolition administratively.
The Conservation Society and a Sommers family descendant, who had researched the site extensively, disagreed with the City’s assessment. Since the deadline to dispute the City’s decision had passed, our only recourse was to launch a last-minute advocacy campaign, appealing to CPS Trustees to stay the demolition.
Lesson learned: Preservationists need to closely monitor OHP’s Public Portal for pending demolition requests. This portal provides the only public review process for endangered historic buildings that lack landmark designation. As the Sommers case shows, it is easy for a these buildings to go from “safe” to salvage.