PARTIAL LOSS: Dome and Interior of Second Church of Christ Scientist Demolished, But Facade Will Be Incorporated into New Construction (Chicago 7 2019)

New Construction Rendering for Second Church of Christ, Scientist, 1901, Solon S. Beman, 2700 N. Pine Grove Avenue. A Chicago 7 Most Endangered 2019. Rendering Credit: Booth Hansen
Second Church of Christ, Scientist, 1901, Solon S. Beman, 2700 N. Pine Grove Avenue. A Chicago 7 Most Endangered 2019. Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers
Second Church of Christ, Scientist, 1901, Solon S. Beman, 2700 N. Pine Grove Avenue. A Chicago 7 Most Endangered 2019. Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers
Demolition of Second Church of Christ, Scientist, 1901, Solon S. Beman, 2700 N. Pine Grove Avenue. A Chicago 7 Most Endangered 2019. Photo Credit: Alex Bean
Second Church of Christ, Scientist, 1901, Solon S. Beman, 2700 N. Pine Grove Avenue. A Chicago 7 Most Endangered 2019. Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers

Preservation Chicago has long been advocating to save the Second Church of Christ Scientist and it was a 2019 Chicago 7 Most Endangered. Second Church of Christ was designed by Solon S. Beman in 1901. By any measure, it should have been protected by a Chicago Landmark designation.

In 2020, Preservation Chicago was able to secure the interest of a major philanthropic foundation to purchase and restore the magnificent church building and convert it into a cultural arts center. Additionally, the congregation would have continued to have access for religious services. The congregation flatly rejected the offer preferring to monetize the value of the land.

The decision of the development team to save the exterior walls is an improvement over the initial plans, but the building, including its magnificent dome, should have been preserved in its entirety. This building presented a unique opportunity that has been squandered.

Ward Miller, Executive Director of Preservation Chicago, spoke at the public meeting to encourage preservation and landmarking of the historic building and for a cultural use for the historic gem in November 2017

As reported by Peter von Buol in the Skyline in 2017, Ward Miller said, “We do not need another residential high-rise at this site. It will adversely affect the quality of life, sunlight, air and throw shadows on adjacent buildings. What we do need collectively, is a great and amazing resource and cultural center, for an already dense neighborhood. This is a once-in-a-life-time chance. Let’s not blow it, with another embarrassing loss and demolition of one of Chicago’s great architectural treasures.”

“‘The church mentioned they would consider a donation of the building to a good steward, so let that steward be all of us collectively and let’s all advocate for a collective reuse that benefits all Chicagoans, looking to the near future,’ said Miller, who added that Preservation Chicago will work with the congregation and the community to help make the community-center vision a reality.

“Built in 1901, the classical façade of the building recalls one of Beman’s most celebrated design, the ‘Merchant and Tailors’ Building” of Chicago’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. “The World’s Fair building had received numerous awards for its designs. Beman worked with members of the Christian Science Movement and its leaders, including Mary Eddy Baker, the faith’s founder and leader, to design “a most perfect church prototype’ for subsequent Christian Science buildings. Beman included few, if any, traditional religious symbols and symbolism, in designing a beautiful light-filled sanctuary and with an auditorium and assembly-space as a sanctuary,” added Miller.

“‘The sanctuary of the church, with its art glass and gilded dome, its magnificent column-free space, with wide arches and honey-colored art windows; its rare Austin organ, could be an unparalleled space for concerts, cultural events, music, lectures, presentations affiliated with the local museums and institutions, including The Lincoln Park Conservatory, the Lincoln Park Zoo and The Peggy Notebaert Nature Center. This would all be located a mere half-block from Lincoln Park, and would be an amazing resource for the Lincoln Park community, and for all of Chicago,’ suggested Miller.

“‘The Chicago Cultural Center was constructed as the Chicago Public Central Library in 1897. It was rethought as the Chicago Cultural Center in 1977 and has been one of the best reuse projects in the city’s history. It’s still a remarkable center and proof of a visionary series of decisions that were made in the 1970s, by elected officials, city leaders, and philanthropic organizations. Let’s continue to have that visionary outlook and reuse the church building for everything both cultural and imaginative. Let’s ask the church, city, elected officials to work together with our Chicago philanthropy community to make this vision a reality,’ Miller said.” (Von Buol, Skyline, 11/22/17)

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