THREATENED: Chicago Town and Tennis Club / Unity Church Threatened by Expansion of Misericordia Home, under the auspices of the Archdiocese of Chicago and the Sisters of Mercy

Main Entry, Chicago Town and Tennis Club/Unity Church, 1925 W. Thome Avenue, by George W. Maher in 1925. Photo Credit: Jason Marck / WBEZ
Main Foyer, Chicago Town and Tennis Club/Unity Church, 1925 W. Thome Avenue, by George W. Maher in 1925. Photo Credit: Jason Marck / WBEZ
Gardens, Chicago Town and Tennis Club/Unity Church, 1925 W. Thome Avenue, by George W. Maher in 1925. Photo Credit: Jason Marck / WBEZ
Chicago Town and Tennis Club Aerial View, 1925 W. Thome Avenue. Photo Credit: Google Maps

The historic Chicago Town and Tennis Club/Unity Chicago, also known as Unity Church in Chicago and “Unity in Chicago” located at 1925 W. Thome Avenue behind Emerson Park in West Ridge is threatened with demolition. The 3.5-acre site sold in 2018 for $7.5 million to Misericordia Homes which plans to demolish the historic building and construct a residential building to accommodate approximately 100 people with developmental disabilities.

The historic building was designed by Chicago architect George W. Maher in 1925, as the Tudor-Revival Chicago Town and Tennis Club overlooking 16 tennis courts and extensive gardens. The building is orange-rated per the Chicago Historic Resources Survey (CHRS). The tennis club closed and later became an Elks Club before becoming Unity Church. The building was carefully restored by Vinci-Hamp Architects for Unity Church which converted the club dining room into its sanctuary, and other rooms were converted into an art gallery and a social hall. The building has retained much of its original stained glass, tile and plasterwork. On the exterior of the building, original stone carvings depicting a pair of tennis rackets can be seen.

In more recent history, Unity Church was the location where 40 same-sex couples were married on June 1, 2014, the first day same-sex marriage became legal in Illinois. “Among the forty couples getting married or renewing vows…were included one couple that has been married for 60 years. Fifteen couples wed, as 25 renewed vows or expressed commitment. Over 500 people were in attendance to witness the ceremony.” (GoPride.com, 6/1/14)

Ward Miller, Executive Director of Preservation Chicago, has been advocating to convince Misericordia and former 40th Ward Alderman Patrick O’Connor and current 40th Ward Alderman Andre Vasquez to preserve the historic orange-rated building for reuse as a community center and dining hall. To date despite repeated efforts, no calls have been returned and it appears that in true Chicago-style “the fix is in” to destroy this landmark-quality building. We are hopeful that Mayor Lightfoot and DPD-Historic Preservation Staff will intervene and convince Misericordia to reuse this beautiful building as a dining hall and activity center for the many residents of Misericordia’s expansive adjacent facility.

Because the historic building takes up only a small percentage of the expansive 3.5 acre site, we are encouraging Misericordia to construct their new proposed residential buildings elsewhere on the site, specifically on the vast parking lots, tennis courts and, if absolutely necessary, on the gardens.

Hear the full article at WBEZ Chicago
What’s That Building? Unity Church, Dennis Rodkin, Morning Shift, WBEZ 91.5 Chicago, 8/1/18

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