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New Regal Theater Deemed Endangered

The marquee at the New Regal Theater, 1641-59 E. 79th St. (1991 File Photo; Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – The New Regal Theater on 79th Street and the Prentice Women’s Hospital in Streeterville have made the list for this year’s 10 most endangered historic places.

Landmarks Illinois releases its list of the Ten Most Endangered Historic Places every year. The goal is to call attention to historic resources in dire need of assistance in the form of responsible stewardship or creative reuse plans.

This year, the New Regal Theater at 1641-59 E. 79th St. makes the list due to deferred repairs. The 2,300 seat theater, built in 1927 as the Avalon, was cited by the City of Chicago last year for a dangerous exterior wall, and has since gone into foreclosure, Landmarks Illinois said.

During that time, necessary repairs have not been undertaken, the group said.

The theater is seen by thousands of driver each day as they enter the Chicago Skyway from Stony Island Avenue. Its Middle Eastern, Moorish design was based in part on a Persian incense burner that architect John Eberson found, the group said.

As the Avalon, the theater showed movies until the late 1970s, when a church bought it. The venue reopened as the New Regal after being sold to a non-profit foundation in 1987. It has functioned mainly as a live performance venue since.

Now that it is closed, the theater could deteriorate, the group said.

“There is a small window of opportunity to prevent this theater from that fate and becoming a ‘white elephant’ that would be economically difficult to salvage. A capable new owner is needed immediately,” Landmarks Illinois said.

The Prentice Women’s Hospital building, at 333 E. Superior St., made the endangered buildings list for the second year in a row. It has been mostly vacant since Northwestern moved the hospital to a new building about a block west in the fall of 2007.

The last remaining tenants are expected to move out later this year, and ownership will revert back to Northwestern, according to Landmarks Illinois.

The four-lobed concrete cloverleaf tower was built in 1975. It was designed by Bertrand Goldberg, the same architect who designed Marina City and several other iconic Chicago buildings.

But Landmarks Illinois warns that Northwestern will could the old hospital, which is not protected by local landmark designation. The ownership of the building will revert to Northwestern later this year, when the last tenant moves out, according to Landmarks Illinois.

Also on the list is the Alfonso Iannelli home and studio, at 225 N. Northwest Highway in northwest suburban Park Ridge. The structures were occupied by the famous artist for more than 40 years, but are now for sale and could be demolished “if purchased by an unsympathetic buyer,” Landmarks Illinois said.

Iannelli and his wife, Margaret, bought the house and former blacksmith shop in 1919, and founded one of the area’s best-known commercial at firms, the group said. As an artist, Iannelli produced sculptures in collaboration with prominent architects, including Frank Lloyd Wright, the group said.

Also on the list are several downstate structures, inclduing the Ford County Sheriff’s Residence and Jail in Paxton; Belleville Turner Hall in Sangamon County, the Soper-Burr House in Bloomington, three late-19th and early-20th century Catholic churches in Streator, the West End Settlement House in Rock Island and the Will Rogers Theatre in Charleston.