First reported reported 4/28/2009 1:04 p.m.

Click here to see a slideshow of photos detailing the crumbling ceiling

Being named one of the 11 most endangered places in the nation doesn’t seem like good news – unless you’re Unity Temple, that is.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation announced its annual list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places on Monday. And Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple (875 Lake), which is battling a crumbling ceiling and deteriorating condition, is on the list.

“A century after its completion, Frank Lloyd Wright’s temple is at a critical crossroads,” Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, said in a press release Tuesday. “If the building’s structural integrity and interior damage are not addressed, this modern icon will be lost to future generations.”

No grants or awards come with being named to the list, an annual tradition since 1988. But Emily Roth – executive director of the Unity Temple Restoration Foundation, a non-profit working to preserve and restore the building – hopes the designation will help bring national attention (and donations) to Wright’s 100-year-old structure.

“We see this as a call to action for those people who love Unity Temple and who appreciate its significance,” Roth said.

Following torrential rains last September, which caused flooding in River Forest, plaster started falling from the ceiling of Unity Temple. Wright did not install expansion joints in the roof, which would have allowed the concrete façade to freeze and thaw without cracking.

As a result, the flat slabs on either side of the temple’s skylight have been cracking for 100 years, allowing water to seep in. Faulty repairs in the past, along with flaws in construction, and the sheer age of the building compound the problem. The 12 roof drains on the temple are also in “terrible condition,” according to Roth.

So the foundation is raising funds to assist in the repairs. The foundation received a boost in December when it received a $200,000 Save America’s Treasures matching grant. They are now working to match those funds, of which $10,000 has been raised so far. They’ll need to another $2 million to address the rest of the roof problems, and a complete restoration and repair will cost an estimated $20-25 million.

Unity Temple applied for the endangered list in January. This is the temple’s first time on it. A press conference was held Tuesday morning at Unity Temple to announce the designation.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has a Web site and magazine, and Roth hopes this will bring worldwide attention to the temple.

“It really is an international landmark, and we want to create an international level of awareness,” she said. “One option is to let it continue to deteriorate. The other is to step forward and say this is a world treasure in a global community, and it’s up to the world to support this building.”

CONTACT: mstempniak@wjinc.com

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