The historic Chicago Town and Tennis Club/Unity Church located at 1925 W. Thome Avenue behind Emmerson Park in West Ridge is threatened with demolition. The 3.5 acre site was recently sold for $7.5 million to Misericordia Homes which plans to demolish the historic building and construct a residential building to accommodate individuals with developmental disabilities.
Designed by Chicago architect George W. Maher in 1925, the Tudor-Revival Chicago Town and Tennis Club overlooked 16 tennis courts and extensive gardens. The building is orange-rated in 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. 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 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. Maggie Bynum sang musical selections including “At Last ” for the couples.” (GoPride.com, 6/1/14)
Ward Miller, Executive Director of Preservation Chicago, has been urging Misericordia and 40th Ward Alderman Patrick O’Connor to preserve the historic orange-rated building for reuse as a community center and dining hall. Because the historic building takes up only a small percentage of the expansive 3.5 acre site, Preservation Chicago encourages Misericordia to construct their new residential building elsewhere on the site.