“Plenty of Chicago churches have been converted to dwelling places. Most of these, such as Trinity Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lake View and Bethany Presbyterian Church in Logan Square, look like churches, graced with steeples and stained glass. Not the former Fifth Church of Christ, Scientist, at 4840 South Dorchester Avenue. Designed by Solon S. Beman, a house architect for the faith, the Classical Revival–style building could be mistaken for a post office, library, or museum.
“Last used as a house of worship in the early 2000s, by Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, and later owned by chef and restaurateur Art Smith, who had hoped to transform it into a cooking school and community center, the 119-year-old Kenwood structure is now a collection of 13 upscale residences. One of them, a four-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bath townhouse, was recently put on the market for $825,000.
“For Beman, who also designed the Pullman community — the nation’s first planned company town — as well as Kenwood’s Blackstone Library and the Fine Arts Building, the ‘sincerity and refinement’ of the Classical Revival style was an apt expression of faith. It’s not a bad look to come home to, either.” (Connors, Chicago Magazine, 8/16/23)
After 15 years of vacancy, neglect, and the resulting severely deteriorated condition, a redevelopment plan emerged in 2018 to preserve the columned front façade of Shiloh Baptist Church/5th Church of Christ Scientist. Designed by Solon S. Beman in 1914, the Shiloh Baptist Church/5th Church of Christ Scientist is located at 4820 S. Dorchester Avenue in the Hyde Park–Kenwood Landmark District. The façade is protected as a contributing building within the Designated Chicago Kenwood Landmark District. While it is also within the Hyde Park – Kenwood National Register District, National Register Districts provide no protection against demolition.
Preservation Chicago and concerned members of the Hyde Park and Kenwood Community attended many building Court hearings in 2018. The owner and developer allowed significant deterioration of the building’s condition which resulted in the emergency demolition of the rear portion of the building, leaving only the front façade and return walls on the side of the building still standing.
Preservation Chicago had long sought to find a patron for the building and would have preferred a preservation-oriented developer who would have stabilized and redeveloped the entire building, not just the façade of this historic landmark.