WIN: Agudas Achim Uptown Synagogue Adaptive Reuse Underway (Chicago 7 2015)

The long vacant Agudas Achim Synagogue building exterior will be preserved and will be converted to residential use by Cedar Street Companies. A Chicago 7 in 2015, it had been a prime teardown candidate due to years of deferred maintenance, extensive water damage and vandalism. Located at 5029 N. Kenmore Avenue, the building had been threatened with numerous demolition proposals dating back to 2008.

Built in 1922 and designed by Dubin & Eisenberg, Agudas Achim has been described as “the last grand Chicago synagogue” and was able to accommodate 2,200 worshipers. The dramatic sanctuary with its extensive stained glass, mosaic ark, decorative plaster work and grand marble staircase remain impressive even in its current deteriorated condition.

Preservation Chicago worked extensively to match a preservation-sensitive developer with the building and applauds Cedar Street Companies for undertaking this redevelopment project. The building’s exterior façade is being considered by the developer for Chicago Landmark designation. The grand foyer and flanking staircase will be preserved and many of the significant features will be salvaged, including most of the art glass windows and the jeweled mosaic ark which will be donated to other synagogues.

Saved Agudas Achim Art Glass Windows

Thank you for your interest in the windows and other historic elements salvaged from Agudas Achim Synagogue, located in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood. Agudas Achim was designed by the architectural firm of Dubin & Eisenberg and constructed in 1922.

Described as the last grand Chicago synagogue, its construction was a result of a merging of two congregations, the First Hungarian Congregation, known as Agudath Achim founded in 1884 on Chicago’s West Side and the former Uptown community based North Shore Congregation known as the Sons of lsrael.

Agudas Achim Synagogue is a magnificent structure, built in a combination of styles and detailing including influences of the Romanesque-Revival style (particularly at the arched entry to the synagogue) and with Spanish and Art Deco influences on the upper walls and cresting. However, the massing, volume and overall composition of the building was considered thoroughly modern for its time in 1922. This design effect still presents a stark contrast with the surrounding buildings with its massive walls and side setbacks of cream-colored brick and stone

The interior of the building was highly ornamented with an impressive 2,200 seat sanctuary located on the second floor of the building. The sanctuary with its grand volume, high clerestory and sloping ceiling features a beautiful chancel archway and an ark cabinet designed and commissioned by the architect of the synagogue, Henry Dubin and constructed in Italian mosaic tiles by German craftsman its brilliant and intricate patterns of rich gold blue and green colors radiate beautiful hues of color which stand in front of a large arched stained glass window containing some of the same tones as the ark cabinet

Changing demographics within recent decades have led to a dwindling of the congregation. The result was years of deferred maintenance, followed by an extended period of vacancy.

In 2015, Preservation Chicago Agudas Achim as one it its 7 most endangered historic buildings in Chicago. In part due to the efforts of Preservation Chicago, Agudas Achim was purchased by Cedar Street Companies with plans to save the building exterior and convert it to a residential use. Additionally, the grand foyer and flanking staircase will be saved.

Preservation Chicago worked closely with developer Cedar Street Companies to remove historic elements from the sanctuary prior to redevelopment. Now, we are looking for synagogues and institutions looking to provide a new home to these elements. The elements will be donated by Alex Samoylovich, in honor of the his co-founder in Cedar Street the late Jay Michael and Boris Samoylovich.

Link to photos of windows before salvage

Link to photos of saved Agudas Achim art glass windows

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