Businesses that were listed in the Negro Motorist Green Book from 1936 to 1967, including several on or near Route 66, made Landmarks Illinois’ annual Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois.
This year, Landmarks Illinois listed nine sites it considered as endangered.
“The purpose of the list is to focus attention on sites threatened by deterioration, lack of maintenance, insufficient funds or inappropriate development and to bolster local advocacy efforts and build support for each property’s eventual preservation,” the organization stated about its list. “The Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois list also draws attention to important policy issues that affect these properties and historic properties throughout the state.”
Landmarks Illinois wrote this about the Green Book sites in the state:
Since the final printing of the Green Book in 1967, many of the Illinois sites featured in the publication have been demolished. For those that remain, often their cultural significance is not widely known, and thus they lack the protections and prioritization that they deserve. If this trend continues, we will lose more of the places and stories of African American communities that hosted Green Book sites and the role they played in the struggle for Civil Rights.
Illinois is in need of a survey of Green Book sites along with collaborative approaches to share the stories of the people who owned and operated the businesses highlighted as well as the travelers who used the guide. Preservation of the remaining Illinois Green Book sites is an opportunity to honor the legacy of the people and communities the Green Book served and to better understand the critical role they played in the struggle for civil rights and equality, as well as travel culture in America.
Landmarks Illinois stated it is compiling information on Green Book sites, with the goal of finishing a statewide survey. It stated it needs of information and additional research for sites in the Chicagoland area. Those who can help should contact Landmarks Illinois Springfield office director Frank Butterfield.
The Park Service’s list of surviving Green Book sites on or near Route 66 in downstate Illinois as of seven years ago:
- Helen Robbins boarding house, 1616 E. Jackson St., Springfield
- Nellie Tate boarding house, 400 W. Chenery St., Springfield
- Julia F. Johnson boarding house, 1144 N. Seventh St., Springfield
- Bessie Mosby townhouse, 1614 E. Jackson St., Springfield
- Bernie Eskridge townhouse, 1501 E. Jackson St., Springfield
- P.B. Reeves boarding house, 1803 Bond Ave., East St. Louis
- Mid-town Townhouse, 2738 Bond Ave., East St. Louis
Several more Illinois sites listed from 2014 have an unknown status. That, along with a lack of data in Chicago, indicates a new survey is sorely needed.
Other Illinois sites on the endangered list:
- Altgeld Gardens shop and two school buildings, Chicago
- Broadview Hotel, East St. Louis
- Illinois Terminal Interurban Station, Decatur
- James R. Thompson Center, Chicago
- Joliet Steel Mill main office building, Joliet
- Klas Restaurant, Cicero
- Scott Foresman headquarters, Glenview
(Image of the former Helen Robbins boarding house at 1616 E. Jackson St. in Springfield, Illinois, once listed in the Negro Motorist Green Book via Landmarks Illinois)