The Illinois Youth Center Auditorium and Gymnasium in St. Charles (Kane County), have been named to Landmarks Illinois’ annual Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois list, which was announced today at a press conference in Springfield.
“These now vacant historic buildings – in the heart of the Illinois Youth Center campus – symbolize the care, training and education integral to the reform movement of the early twentieth century that was provided to male youth at the St. Charles School for Delinquent Boys.” said Bonnie McDonald, President of Landmarks Illinois. “Brought to our attention by State Senator Karen McConnaughay, we hope this listing will help in her effort to secure private and public resources to rehabilitate these buildings and allow them to be used again by current and future residents of the youth center.”
Landmarks Illinois, the state’s leading voice for historic preservation, named ten other endangered historic properties to its annual list, which focuses attention on sites that are threatened by deterioration, lack of maintenance, insufficient funds, or inappropriate development.
When it opened in 1904, the St. Charles School for Delinquent Boys stood at the forefront of a national movement to transform the way society cared for neglected, orphaned, and wayward children. Progressive reformers joined with state officials to found a state-sponsored institution dedicated to furnishing "care, training, education and a home to the delinquent boys committed...by the courts of Illinois.” The campus of the school was designed by ………The school gymnasium, funded by the Chicago Commercial Club, provided much-needed space for recreation and physical education. The auditorium (then known as Amusement Hall) hosted "picture shows and other entertainments" while doubling as a chapel for Protestant charges on Sundays.
“It is heart-wrenching to see the condition of the Illinois Youth Center campus that was once a viable, safe haven for struggling youths,” said Senator McConnaughay. “I am very committed to ensuring that the youths who enter this facility today have access to opportunities that will help rehabilitate them and encourage them to become productive members of society when they leave the campus. To provide such opportunities, it starts with renovating the auditorium and gymnasium. I solicit the help of our great community to help make this campus, once again, a place to help young people overcome crime and adversity in their lives.”
Since the inception of Landmarks Illinois’ Most Endangered list in 1995, more than a third of the listed properties have been saved, less than a quarter have been demolished, and the rest are in varying stages between being continually threatened and rehabilitation.
This year’s list also includes: a century old YWCA, an Art Moderne armory, a WPA-era courthouse, a space-age bank, a historic high school and its surrounding neighborhood, multiple neighborhood schools to be closed in two cities, an archdiocesan church scheduled for closing, an historic gentleman’s farm in a forest preserve, and a city-owned stately mansion on the North Shore.
Landmarks Illinois has been working to protect historic places throughout Illinois for over 40 years. The not-for-profit works with citizens and communities to preserve historic places and promote awareness about them through education and advocacy. Landmarks Illinois preserves historic places that enhance communities, empower citizens, and catalyze local economic development throughout Illinois. In addition to the Most Endangered Historic Places list, the organization also sponsors an annual awards program, two grant programs and various educational events, including the co-sponsorship of a bi-annual statewide historic preservation conference. Landmarks Illinois also is working with state legislators to enact a statewide historic tax credit program – The Illinois Rehabilitation and Revitalization Tax Credit Act (SB 2217) and to extend the current Illinois Historic Tax Credit program now available in five pilot cities with the River Edge Historic Tax Credit Extension bills (SB 1642 and HB 3566).
The complete Most Endangered Historic Places list, including photos of the sites, is available at www.Landmarks.org through the “Press Room” link.
Landmarks Illinois is the state’s leading voice for historic preservation. Since its founding in 1971, the statewide membership organization has saved countless architectural and historic treasures throughout Illinois. Landmarks Illinois’ mission today focuses on preserving historic places and advancing policies that enhance communities, empower citizens, and catalyze local economic development throughout Illinois. For more information, visit www.Landmarks.org.