“A Northwest Side group wants a historical church that held its last mass last year to receive landmark status to prevent it from potentially being torn down.
“Our Lady of Victory, 5212 W. Agatite Ave., closed its parish as part of the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Renew My Church consolidation plan. The building is still a Catholic church open for services under the archdiocese’s permission for now.
“While the archdiocese has no immediate plans for the building, it mentioned options for selling the property when it announced the closing in 2020. This sent parishioners and community members into a panic, as they want to make sure the building is preserved and stays a neighborhood asset.
“A petition by the neighborhood group Save Our Lady of Victory calls on elected officials to work with the city to grant the church landmark status.
“‘It is one of the most fabulous pieces of architecture on the Northwest Side — we don’t want to lose it,’ said Susanna Ernst, president of the Northwest Chicago Historical Society and an Our Lady of Victory parishioner who organized the petition.
“Our Lady of Victory, founded in 1906, is the oldest Catholic church on the Far Northwest Side. It has been home to Irish, Polish and German congregations. Its architectural significance, community outreach and growth between the 1920s and ’50s make it important to the area, Ernst said.
“The church has been suggested for landmark status to the Commission on Chicago Landmarks by the Northwest Chicago Historical Society, Ernst said. The commission, which is an arm of the city’s Department of Planning and Development, is responsible for recommending sites for legal protection as official city landmarks.
“Should the commission deem Our lady of Victory meets the historical, architectural and cultural significance requirements to become a landmark, aldermanic and ownership approval would be needed, according to the city’s landmarks ordinance. A public hearing, followed by a commission decision, is then taken to City Council before the landmark can become official.
“Preservation Chicago added the church to its list of 2021 endangered buildings and recommended it be repurposed as another religious space, an event venue or as housing. ‘The church could still remain a sacred site but maybe be enveloped with other uses, maybe tied to the community, or maybe an educational facility,’ said Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago. ‘The landmark designation encourages the right kinds of ideas and a creative imagination being applied to these structures.’
“In addition to benefiting the Far Northwest Side, which has few landmarked buildings, the designation could benefit the archdiocese, Miller said. With the archdiocese closing churches and parishes around the area as part of its Renew My Church plan, its Catholic churches could see new life and sustainability with the city’s help, Miller said.
“The archdiocese ‘could still landmark the outside of the building and encourage the city to maintain big structures, even if they are closing or in disrepair,’ Miller said. Given that the archdiocese does not consider its properties for landmark status, Miller said ownership consent for religious buildings — added to the ordinance in 1987 — should be repealed.” (Parrella-Aureli, Block Club Chicago, 3/1/22)
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