THREATENED: Wayman AME Church for Sale Again as Land

Wayman African Methodist Episcopal Church, 509 W. Elm Street, Photo Credit Google Street View
Wayman African Methodist Episcopal Church, 509 W. Elm Street, Photo Credit Google Street View

“A historical church that for decades served residents of the now-demolished Cabrini-Green public housing towers is back on the market more than three years after its congregation struck a deal to sell the site for redevelopment.

“The Wayman African Methodist Episcopal Church parcel, 2.72 acres on Elm Street, was listed yesterday with an asking price of $2.95 million. The parcel includes a four-story, red brick church—built in 1889 as the First Swedish Baptist Church—and a low-rise midcentury addition, as well as some empty land. The listing suggests both buildings could be demolished.

“‘Currently there is a church building on the parcel,’ according to the listing posted by Robert Waldschmidt and Clifford Perotti of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Chicago, ‘but highest and best use is to replace it with a more modern residential development.’ Waldschmidt said he and Perotti declined to comment.

“In June 2018, the Wayman Church parcel went under contract in just two days on the market with an asking price of $3.25 million. The 2018 deal presumably fell apart, as the property is now back on the market at a lower price. Rev. Thomas Hughes did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Pettis did not respond to a request for comment, either. Wayman Church’s listed phone number has been disconnected.

“The building’s roots reach back to 1853, when the neighborhood, known as Swede Town, had several Swedish churches, including First Swedish Baptist, whose original sanctuary may have been destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire 150 years ago this week. The Swedish Baptists completed the present church building in 1889; it’s not clear whether they they transferred it to the AME church in 1920, or if there was another inhabitant between the two congregations.

“For several decades, Wayman AME was a spiritual haven for Black residents of Cabrini-Green, which was built in stages from the early 1940s through the early 1960s. In the early 1990s, Wayman AME was part of the backdrop of one of Cabrini-Green’s most horrific incidents: On Oct. 13, 1992, bullets fired by a sniper in a building just north of Wayman AME rocketed past the church before killing 7-year-old Dantrell Davis, who was holding his mother’s hand as he crossed Cleveland Avenue a short distance south of the church.

“Davis was the third Jenner Elementary School student killed that year. His death was one of the events that galvanized the city’s Plan for Transformation, announced in the late 1990s, which included tearing down the Cabrini-Green high-rises​​​​​​. (Rodkin, Crain’s Chicago Business, 10/8/21)

Preservation Chicago considers the Wayman African Methodist Episcopal Church/First Swedish Baptist Church an important historic church building that should be protected and adaptively reused. This building is an excellent example of the Romanesque Church construction and despite some deferred maintenance is in surprisingly good and stable condition. The historic buildings from the Cabrini-Green Neighborhood have almost all been demolished, so this is one of the last standing survivors and must be protected.

Additionally, the church building is located in one small corner of the large vacant lot. The church building occupies approximately 1/20th of the site, or 0.14 acres of the total 2.72-acre lot, so the developer could build extensively without the historic church building interfering.

Read the full story at Crain’s Chicago Business

Historic church that served Cabrini-Green for sale again: The listing for the Wayman Church parcel says the ‘highest and best use is to replace it with a more modern residential development,’ Dennis Rodkin, Crain’s Chicago Business, 10/8/21


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