Q&A with Frank Butterfield, Chief Operating Officer, Landmarks Illinois
Green Book Sites
Location: Chicago, Illinois (work is statewide)
Preserving Illinois’ Green Book Sites is a partnership with Route History, Inc. to preserve the history of the 250 Illinois sites included in the “Negro Motorist Green Book,” using oral histories and an interactive online map.
Featured image caption: The Dudley Hotel, located at 11th and Adams Street in Springfield, Ill., was listed for 20 years in the Negro Motorist Green Book. The building was demolished in August 1960. (Photo courtesy of the Sangamon Valley Collection of the Lincoln Library in Springfield.)
Founded in 1971, Landmarks Illinois’ mission is to preserve, protect, and promote architectural and historic resources in Illinois through advocacy and education.
Upcoming Event: Preservation Forward
Thursday, March 2, 2023
Old Post Office
433 W Van Buren St
This event will honor our 2023 Landmarks Illinois Influencers, a group of five leaders who have shaped Illinois’ built environment and, who through their work, are joining Landmarks Illinois in its progressive effort to create a more diverse, equitable, inclusive and accessible preservation movement. Preservation Forward guests will enjoy cocktails, signature dishes from multiple food stations, networking and an after party! Learn more and register Today!
Q: How do you see the arts/culture/humanities as being essential?
Frank Butterfield: The humanities are essential as they engage the full human experience. They provide a forum for people to explore both our shared experiences and what makes us unique. My paternal grandparents moved to Chicago from Ireland as young adults. In my youth, I took Irish dancing lessons. I vividly remember performing on St. Patrick’s Day, wearing a kilt in the halls of a reused, historic school as it filled with traditional music and dancing. The arts are what brought my heritage to life, from stories of tragedy and resilience to hope and optimism.
Q: What is the most important thing people should know about your work?
Frank Butterfield: Landmarks Illinois is the only historic preservation organization working statewide to help people save places in their communities. We provide advocacy assistance, small grant funding, educational services and other key services that get preservation efforts off the ground – all free of charge and with a small team of employees. We are also a dedicated, long-term preservation partner for the people of Illinois, working with local advocates for years or decades on projects, like the 25-year effort to save The Old Post Office in Chicago, the nearly 20-year effort to reuse the Kendall County Sheriff’s Resident & Jail in Yorkville, and the nearly 10-year effort to rehabilitate the former Hotel Belleville.
Q: How did you arrive at doing what you do?
Frank Butterfield: I took a winding path to historic preservation. My college studies were in chemistry and music. While I thought chemistry was my future, I used my spare moments to follow my passion of exploring the historic spaces of cities where I lived and visited. Eventually, I took night classes in art history and architectural history, which only expanded my passion for saving, exploring, and enjoying historic places. Somewhere in that journey, I discovered historic preservation and was hooked. After graduate school at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, I worked for the National Trust for Historic Preservation before joining Landmarks Illinois in 2013.
Q: Who makes your work possible?
Frank Butterfield: Our work is made possible by members, donors, volunteers, and partners throughout Illinois. This broad-based support includes participation in an advocacy campaign, becoming a member, or attending an event, becoming a grant recipient, as well as foundation support, corporate sponsorships, sponsorship of Landmarks Illinois, foundation support, corporate sponsors, and our volunteer Skyline Council, committee members, Emeritus Board and Board of Directors. The scope of impact greatly exceeds the number of our staff because of the generosity of our supporters.
Suggested Viewings & Readings by Frank Butterfield:
- “Why I turned Chicago’s abandoned homes into art,” A TED Talk by Amanda Williams. Amanda Williams is one of the Landmarks Illinois influencers at Preservation Forward, our spring fundraising event on March 2, 2023.
- Preservation News: The Landmarks Illinois
- The Relevancy Project blog post series, which addresses much-needed changes in historic preservation:
- #1 – INTRODUCING THE RELEVANCY PROJECT
- #2 – WHAT IS RELEVANCE AND WHY AREN’T WE?
- #3 – THE CULTURE OF PRECIOUSNESS
- #4 – PRESERVATION’S IMBEDDED INJUSTICE
- #5 – PROMOTING A JUST PRESERVATION MOVEMENT
- #6 – PRESERVING AFFORDABLE HOUSING
- #7 – FIGHTING CLIMATE CHANGE THROUGH PRESERVATION
- #8 – PRESERVATION AS A MATTER OF HEALTH
- #9 – JOB CREATION THROUGH PRESERVATION
- #10 – WHAT’S THE STORY? PRESERVATIONISTS AS STORYTELLERS.
- #11 – FUNDING PRESERVATION’S EVOLUTION
- Stayed tuned to the Preservation News for the final post introducing The Relevancy Guidebook.
About The Illinois Humanities Grantee Partner Spotlight
Illinois Humanities highlights the work of our Community Grants program partners through our “Grantee Spotlight.” It shines the light on our grantee partner’s work, offering details about the organization and the funded project, as well as a Q&A with a team member at the organization. More: ILHumanities.org/Spotlight
About Illinois Humanities
Illinois Humanities, the Illinois affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, is a statewide nonprofit organization that activates the humanities through free public programs, grants, and educational opportunities that foster reflection, spark conversation, build community and strengthen civic engagement. We provide free, high-quality humanities experiences throughout Illinois, particularly for communities of color, individuals living on low incomes, counties and towns in rural areas, small arts and cultural organizations, and communities highly impacted by mass incarceration. Founded in 1974, Illinois Humanities is supported by state, federal, and private funds.