THREATENED: Little Flower Church / St. Therese the Infant Jesus Church Condition Worsens During Extended Vacancy

Chicago Sun-Times Cover on February 13, 2024. Little Flower Church wilts on South Side as community pushes to preserve it; “This church was a real mainstay and cornerstone of the community for so long,” said Ward Miller with Preservation Chicago. “It’s really wrenching to see the building not only closed but vacant and vandalized”, Kaitlin Washburn and Phyllis Cha, Chicago Sun-Times, 2/6/24 Little Flower Church / St. Therese-the Little Flower / Greater Mt. Hebron Missionary Baptist Church, 1940, Meyer & Cook, 1801 W. 80th Street.Image credit: Chicago Sun-Times
Little Flower Church / St. Therese-the Little Flower / Greater Mt. Hebron Missionary Baptist Church, 1940, Meyer & Cook, 1801 W. 80th Street. Photo credit: Decaying Midwest

When an urban explorer stumbled across the old, boarded-up church at the corner of 80th and Wood streets, the signs of its neglect and decay piqued his curiosity. Hidden beyond the broken windows, crumbling drywall and flooded floors were intricate columns, vaulted ceilings and intact stained glass that included the church’s famed flower window.

“‘It was absolutely stunning,’ the explorer said, who requested anonymity to avoid getting busted for trespassing. He found the South Side church in December and posted a video of his exploration on the Instagram page, Decaying Midwest. The post got over 10,000 likes.

“The church has been known by many names, but the community remembers it best as the Little Flower Church, a Catholic parish in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood. The limestone-facade church was built over 70 years ago and served worshippers for decades.

“‘This church was a real mainstay and cornerstone of the community for so long,’ said Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago, an organization that advocates for protecting and revitalizing city architecture and neighborhoods. ‘It’s really wrenching to see the building not only closed but vacant and vandalized.’

“Preservation Chicago, also behind the fight to save St. Adalbert Parish in Pilsen, is at least one group in the city hoping to preserve Little Flower Church and seek landmark status for it.

“Ald. David Moore (17th), whose ward includes the church, said he’ll continue supporting any efforts to preserve the building and its history and make it into a resource for the neighborhood.

“‘I hope we can preserve that history of the Auburn Gresham community with this church,’ he said. ‘We don’t have any place where people can come learn about Auburn Gresham.’

“The Archdiocese of Chicago sold the church, formally called St. Therese the Infant Jesus Church, in 1994, and it became the Greater Mount Hebron Missionary Baptist Church, according to records from the Cook County clerk’s office.

“But the church has sat empty for at least four years, Miller estimates. County records show it was foreclosed on in 2020, and a Minnesota LLC paid off the building’s mortgage in 2023.

“Preservation Chicago has tried to reach the new owners to figure out their plans. Miller said they bought the church for $100,000. He hopes the new owners decide to invest in the church and convert it into a new space that would benefit the neighborhood.

“‘This is not beyond salvage; this would be a great building to repurpose, whether it’s a house of worship or whether it’s a community center or housing,’ Miller said. ‘It could offer so much to the Auburn Gresham neighborhood, which has seen a lot of disinvestment.”

“But the signs of a once beautiful church are there. The stained-glass windows, marble pillars, statues and the altar are all intact. Many of the intricate details painted on the towering ceilings remain largely untouched.

“The explorer found it tragic that Little Flower has been left to wither.

“The church ‘was obviously very gorgeous at one point, and now there’s no power on, and it’s in a very bad state of disrepair,’ he said. ‘I would really like to see it saved and restored to its original former glory.’ (Washburn and Cha, Chicago Sun-Times, 2/6/24)

Read the full story at Chicago Sun-Times

 

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