The Arcade Building in downtown Riverside long has been recognized as a local landmark. But as early as this spring, the Arcade could be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
On Feb. 28, the Illinois Historic Sites Advisory Council (IHSAC) will consider an application, completed last year and filed by a firm hired by the Arcade Building’s owner, to place the structure on the National Register as being “locally significant for its long contribution to the commercial history of Riverside.”
If the IHSAC recommends the Arcade Building for inclusion on the National Register, the application will be forwarded to the state’s historic preservation officer, who can either accept or reject the council’s recommendation. If the preservation officer gives the OK, the application will go to Washington D.C.
According to Andrew Heckencamp, the National Register coordinator for the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, the process moves pretty quickly. If the IHSAC recommends the Arcade for National Register status, Riverside could know within three months if the building has made the cut.
“Usually things get listed within 45 days once the information gets [to Washington],” said Heckencamp.
On Jan. 9, the Riverside Preservation Commission gave its support to the application and suggested that, in addition to its local significance, the Arcade Building could qualify as a structure of national significance, based on information submitted with the application.
“There are two other criteria that are also significant,” said Aberdeen Marsh-Ozga, a local preservation commissioner. “It had to do with the history of a notable person [its architect Frederick Withers] … and it’s architecturally significant in and of itself as an example of Victorian gothic in a commercial context and as one of the first examples of an arcade-type structure.”
The National Register application was completed last August by Margaret Guzek and Brian Wolf of Chicago-based Preservation Real Estate Advisors. The company has assisted Arcade Building owner Giuseppe Zappani with the effort to obtain tax breaks available to historic buildings from Cook County.
Guzek told the Landmark last week that Zappani wanted to pursue National Register status as a final feather in the cap for both the building and Riverside.
Zappani rescued the Arcade Building, buying it in 2010 from a Minnesota-based bank that had acquired it in lieu of foreclosure from a company embroiled in an international securities fraud scandal.
The building was vacated in 2008, when the fraud lawsuit hit, and remained that way until after Zappani undertook a two-year effort to completely restore the exterior of the 1871 building, which was part of the original plan conceived by the Riverside Improvement Company.
The Arcade Building was the only commercial structure, outside of the Riverside Hotel, conceived for the village. It was designed by Frederick Withers, an architect associated with the firm of Olmsted and Vaux, which designed the village in 1869.
Withers was known primarily for his church architecture on the East Coast, said Marsh-Ozga. Several of Withers’ buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places.
“It’s one of the few examples of his architecture in the Midwest,” Marsh-Ozga said.
While the application seeks National Register status for the Arcade as a locally significant structure, Guzek pointed out specifically where the building could merit nationally significant status.
She quotes a 1980 scholarly book on Withers that argued for the significance of the Arcade’s design, which states “the quaint medieval character of the [Arcade Building] was influential in determining the artistic flavor of many suburban shopping centers.”
Another scholarly work Guzek wrote called the Arcade “probably the earliest realized scheme to possess most facets of what would later be defined as a shopping center.”
If the Arcade Building does achieve National Register status, it would be the third Riverside building to do so. Two homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright — the Coonley Estate and the F.F. Tomek House — are on the National Register of Historic Places.
The entire village of Riverside won national landmark status in 1970 for its design by renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted.