Danville's Bresee Tower receives endangered designation

Danville's Bresee Tower receives endangered designation

SPRINGFIELD — A leading statewide historic preservation group has named Danville's Bresee Tower to its list of the Ten Most Endangered Historic Places.

Landmarks Illinois announced its annual list Tuesday in Springfield. The 2,500-member not-for-profit organization has been instrumental in saving many architecturally and historically significant buildings in Illinois, and each year, publicizes a top 10 list of buildings in need of assistance.

Downtown Danville Inc., which has an option on Bresee Tower, nominated the building for the list. The current owner, a Kentucky-based company, is willing to gift the building to a willing developer.

DDI Executive Director Dana Schaumburg said she has already had requests from people for more information about Bresee since Tuesday's announcement.

"This has already given us some statewide attention," said Schaumburg, who explained that Landmarks Illinois has contacts and knowledge that can help DDI publicize the building at 2-4 N. Vermilion St., downtown Danville, to the right people who might be interested in it for redevelopment.

She said DDI has an option on the building through July 2013, so the downtown merchants association and its various volunteer-led committees are working hard during this window of opportunity to get a redevelopment effort going. Schaumburg said Landmarks Illinois will be working closely with DDI now.

"So we are very happy to have them on board," she said. "This is one more group that can make things happen."

Schaumburg said Bresee is structurally sound and could be renovated for multiple uses, including a restaurant, offices or residential. She said it's less likely that one person will come in to take on this project, so it's more likely it would be multiple people, groups and funding sources that would save the building.

Jean Follett, interim executive director of Landmarks Illinois, said all the sites on the list are important.

"By calling attention to them, we hope to encourage solutions for their preservation," Follett said in a news release Tuesday.

Other properties on this year's list include an 1854 limestone house, a turn-of-the-century city hall, a Georgian Revival building that housed the widows of Civil War soldiers, a 1928 former residential hotel, a former day school designed by noted Prairie School architect John Van Bergen, a 19th-century farmstead and a Bertrand Goldberg-designed modern hospital.

According to Landmarks Illinois, since it started the Ten Most list in 1995, more than a third of properties on the list have been saved, less than a quarter have been demolished and the rest are still threatened or are being rehabilitated.

Vacant since 2006, Bresee Tower was once filled with professional offices. The Classical Revival tower was built in 1917 as First National Bank, designed by the Chicago firm of Mundie & Jensen.

In the last decade, its terra cotta facade has created problems for the city and the county, which has many of its offices in the Vermilion County Courthouse Annex next door, as chunks of the material have fallen away. The city and the county brought in a crews who made temporary improvements to the facade to help hold the terra cotta in place.

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